Inquest hears of Stewartstown mother’s heartache following death of baby in her bed

Laganside Courts, Belfast.  Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 22/5/2013
Laganside Courts, Belfast. Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 22/5/2013

A baby girl, who was less than a month old when she died, had been sharing a bed with her mother and father when the tragedy occurred.

A warning about the dangers of co-sleeping was issued at an inquest into the death of baby Sophia Kelsey Diane McKinney Heron on April 19.

Although Sudden Infant Death Syndrome went on record as the immediate cause of death, the coroner ruled that the baby being in bed with her parents was a contributing factor.

Sophia’s mother Linda Heron - of West Street, Stewartstown - told an inquest in Belfast: “Every day is a struggle without her”.

The inquest heard that the 24-day-old baby had been fed formula milk from a bottle at around 9pm then put to sleep in a double bed along with her mother, joined later by partner Stephen McKinney.

The sleeping arrangement was for Sophia to be in the middle of the double bed, between her parents, lying on her back with the duvet up to her waist.

Miss Heron told the inquest: “We tried her for a couple of nights in a Moses’ basket, but she wouldn’t settle at all.”

When the baby girl woke at around 1am she was fed by Mr McKinney.

“Usually she would fall asleep when she gets her feed but she was very alert, noseying all around her,” he said.

“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 back to sleep first.

The unemployed couple told the coroner they had both smoked a cigarette before going to bed that night 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 and when I put my hand on her she wasn’t breathing, there was no movement in her chest,” she said. After waking her partner and placing a call to the emergency services, Mr McKinney was talked through administering CPR as the ambulance made its way to the address.

Sophia was then rushed to Craigavon Hospital but the paramedics could not save her.

Dr David Hurrell told the inquest that Sophia’s post mortem was unable to determine her cause of death, which would lead him to consider the possibility of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

He said the act of co-sleeping was a factor due to overheating, accidental overlaying or C02 re-breathing, but added if SIDS was the cause of death it could have happened even if she had been in her cot rather than in bed with her parents.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan said: “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.”