Wellington, May 8 NZPA - A Wellington coroner is calling on the Ministry of Health to strengthen guidelines on safe sleeping practices for newborn babies after an investigation into the sudden deaths of seven infants.
Coroner Garry Evans found four of the babies died of accidental asphyxia while the other three died suddenly and unexpectedly of "undetermined" causes.
In four cases the babies died while sharing a bed with one or more parent. Mr Evans said the Coroners Court was concerned and saddened by each case but the findings and subsequent recommendations could prevent further deaths.
Indiah Ataahi Lola Hawkins, aged four months, was found dead in her bassinet at her Martinborough home in September 2007.
Her face and head were covered with a duvet.
Indiah was also suffering from bronchitis with early pneumonia and the court was unable to determine the exact cause of death.
Tristan Cory Rapata-Warbrick, of Upper Hutt, and Repai Harris, of Stokes Valley, were both found face-down in their cots in December 2007 and October 2008 respectively.
In both cases cause of death was undetermined.
Yozahne Fa'alagilagi Loane Al Jarreau Aki-Hosay, of Lower Hutt, died while sleeping next to his mother in July last year.
Cause of death was not known.
Nephi Joshua Tito-George, Pro Junior Motu Meihana and Yozahliyah Taipeti, all of Lower Hutt, died of accidental asphyxia while sleeping with an adult.
In a report to the coroner on safe sleeping practices and environments for babies, Auckland School of Medical Sciences' Professor Ed Mitchell said the Ministry of Health needed to provided "stronger advice" on appropriate sleeping practices.
Current ministry safe sleeping guidelines advise parents and caregivers to sleep babies on their backs in a cot or bassinet.
A ministry leaflet titled Babies, Bed-sharing and Safety lists both safe and unsafe bed-sharing practices.
Mr Evans said the guidelines encouraged parents to adopt safe sleeping environments but did not directly discourage bed-sharing as it is an "old and treasured practice within many cultures".
As a result of the investigation Mr Evans made recommendations to the ministry including:
- Advising parents that bed-sharing in the first six months of a baby's life could result in death.
- Ensuring health professionals and educators were giving the same advice.
- Ensuring every new mother was provided with a cot if unable to afford one.
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