Tragedy Of Parents Who Accidentally Smothered Their Babies As They Slept

Parents across Northern Ireland have been warned of the potentially lethal outcome of sleeping in bed with their babies. Belfast coroner Brian Sherrard issued the warning following two separate inquests yesterday into the deaths of Belfast babies who were accidentally smothered after their parents fell asleep next to them in bed.

Two-month-old Jayne Heather Wilma White died at the Royal Victoria Hospital on October 25, 2004, after her parents slept beside her in bed at their home in Fernhill Grove, north Belfast. Her heartbroken mother, Nicola Courtney, told the court yesterday of the moment when she realised her daughter was seriously ill.

She said: “I turned around and Jayne was under her dad’s arm. I never thought anything of it and then I lifted his arm and noticed blood was coming from her nose and that she was a funny colour. Her lips were purple and she was a grey colour. I tried to resuscitate her. I put my mouth over her nose and mouth.

“I didn’t know what to do so I lifted her and ran outside,” said Ms Courtney. “I just wanted her to breathe and I thought that if she got some fresh air outside she might have started breathing.”

In a hauntingly similar case, the court later heard details of the death of three-month-old Grace Rebecca Morgan. The court heard that on December 11, 2005, south Belfast mother Charlotte Morgan woke to find her baby girl Grace dead in her bed. The mother-of-one told the court that after a night out to celebrate her birthday she had gone to bed with Grace and her three-year-old toddler.

She laid Grace in the middle of the bed and surrounded her with pillows and slept on one side while the toddler slept on the other. When she woke up the next morning, she discovered Grace was dead.
“I just woke up and looked at her and realised she was dead,” Miss Morgan tearfully recalled. “I ran over to my neighbour, and he attempted to resuscitate her but it didn’t help. There was a doctor that lived near him and we went there.”

Post mortems carried out on both babies found that the cause of their deaths was due to overlaying.

Delivering his findings into the deaths of the two babies, Mr Sherrard said each case highlighted the importance of educating parents that babies can be accidentally smothered if they sleep next to them.

Speaking to the parents of Jayne White, he said: “You have come here and given very brave and frank evidence about what has taken place and this case highlights for all parents the very real dangers involved in co-sleeping with young babies. There may be some parents out there spared some of the agony you have experienced because of you coming here today.”