Co-sleeping a contributing factor in baby’s sudden death

Laganside Court buildings in Belfast.
Laganside Court buildings in Belfast.

A warning about the dangers of co-sleeping was issued at an inquest on Monday into the sudden death of a baby girl from Co Tyrone in April.

While Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was recorded as the cause of death for 24-day-old Sophia Kelsey Diane McKinney Heron, the coroner ruled that sharing her parents’ bed was a contributing factor.

Sophia’s mother Linda Heron told an inquest at Laganside Court “every day is a struggle without her”.

The Stewartstown infant’s sudden death happened in the early hours of April 20.

Miss Heron and her partner Stephen McKinney told the inquest the only place they could get their daughter to settle at night was between them in a double bed, lying on her back with the duvet up to her waist.

Her mother said: “We tried her for a couple of nights in a Moses’ basket [a type of cot], but she wouldn’t settle at all.”

On April 20, with this sleeping arrangement in place, Sophia woke at 1am and was fed by Mr McKinney.

After being fed and changed she was described as being “very alert”.

“The last I remember she was bright as a button,” said her mother.

The pair said they did not see Sophia falling asleep after her 1am feed, as they fell asleep first.

They told the coroner they had both smoked a cigarette before going to bed but neither had consumed alcohol.

Miss Heron said she woke up at around 3am, turned towards her daughter and knew something was wrong.

“She was an off colour. When I put my hand on her chest there was no movement,” she said.

After waking her partner and calling the emergency services, Mr McKinney was talked through administering CPR as the ambulance made its way to the address.

Sophia was taken to Craigavon Hospital but did not survive.

Dr David Hurrell told the inquest that Sophia’s post mortem was unable to determine her cause of death, which led him to consider the possibility of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If that was the cause he said, the tragedy could have happened even if she had been in a cot rather than in bed with her parents.

However he said the act of co-sleeping was a hazardous practice which could lead to overheating, accidental overlaying, or C02 re-breathing.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan officially recorded the death as SIDS, and listed co-sleeping as a contributing factor.

He added: “To lose a baby so young, you can’t even begin to imagine the loss it has caused.

“I hope that the inquest process has helped in some small measure and that other parents read about this tragedy and understand the dangers of putting a baby in bed with adults.”