8 Jun 2012

Coroner reiterates need for babies to sleep safely

3:17 pm on 8 June 2012

A Northland Coroner says the death of a baby has highlighted the need for safe sleeping arrangements for babies.

Coroner Brandt Shortland found a four-month-old boy died of acute broncho-pneumonia associated with unsafe sleeping conditions. He suppressed the child's name and the family's hometown for privacy reasons.

Mr Shortland says the baby's mother was away and he was being cared for by his father at his grandmother's house where 10 people were living.

Police told the hearing that the room where the baby was sleeping was a mess, with items strewn all over the floor.

A post-mortem found the baby, who had a cleft palate, was under-nourished with numerous scars on his hands and feet from insect bites.

The father said he put his son to bed in a crib on a crate at the end of his bed.

He said he gave the baby a bottle during the night and put him back in the crib with blankets draped over the edge - but found him in the morning, blue and unconscious with the blankets over his face.

However, the grandmother said she checked her son's room early in the morning and saw him asleep in bed, with the baby and his older child, who was two.

Whichever version of events was true, Mr Shortland said the baby's safety was compromised and the death was preventable.

Mr Shortland said coroners have been warning for years that babies should be wrapped and put to sleep on the backs, in their own beds, or in a separate crib in their parents' bed.