Friday, 4 November 2011

SIDS: New Zealand: co-sleeping infant death

A Porirua infant was found dead in the bed he shared with a four-year-old sibling, sparking renewed warnings about the dangers of co-sleeping arrangements for babies.
A coroner's decision released today said five-and-a-half-month-old Roretana Holland died of sudden infant death syndrome on July 27, 2010 in his parents' home.
Wellington regional coroner Ian Smith said the baby, one of four children aged under-five, co-slept with his four-year-old sister. All four children shared the same bedroom because they relied on a single oil heater for warmth.
"Bedding consisted of a duvet cover acting as a mattress protector with a sheet over the top with a queen sized mink blanket (this was an unzipped sleeping bag). The children each had their own pillow."
On the night Roretana died he was given formula and pureed food before being put to bed at 7pm. He usually settled immediately but did not on this occasion.
"About midnight the deceased's mother heard him making a noise and went to check him. She noticed that both children were asleep but that the older sibling had her hand on Roretana's ear (she had a habit of pinching his ears in her sleep). The mother removed her arm and went back to her bedroom to sleep."
Roretana usually awoke at 5am. But when he remained silent the mother assumed he needed a "lie in" and fell back to sleep.
About 8am she woke up. The older sibling told her mother she had put Roretana back to sleep. But when the mother checked on the baby she noticed he was in the same position, his face was a pale yellow colour and he was "freezing cold'".
Emergency services were called but Roretana was pronounced dead.
Dr Kerry Thornbury of the Ora Toa Cannons Creek Medical Centre said the baby had been developing well, though had suffered skin infections, which were treated with Penicillin. There had been some concern about possible family violence but attempts to engage the Tamariki Well child nurse had been unsuccessful.
The coroner's decision stated that the mother had smoked throughout her pregnancy and drank alcohol, though gave up the latter when she found out she was pregnant after two months.
Forensic pathologist John Rutherford ruled the death was the result of sudden infant death syndrome, "which he explained as being a condition of unknown cause but is known to be associated with certain environmental factors, such as social deprivation, smoking in a household, excess alcohol consumption and co-sleeping".
Coroner Smith said the case was another tragedy involving co-sleeping arrangements for infants as well as other matters highlighted by the pathologist.
"This is a subject well traversed by myself and other coroners."
He repeated earlier recommendations that public health advice around safe infant care and safe infant sleeping practices be strengthened to avoid similar tragedies.
- The Dominion Post

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