NSW child suffocated in cloth noose, coroner finds

A three-week-old boy is believed to have suffocated when his chin was pinned against his chest in a cloth sling, a NSW coroner has found.

Harvey was found dead after his mother unwrapped his cloth sling and found him pale and motionless at the Central Coast’s Long Jetty Community Health Center on April 8, 2019.

The fabric of the sling may have been too close to the baby’s face, but positional asphyxia was most likely, concluded NSW coroner Derek Lee.

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“The evidence shows that the position of Harvey’s neck with his chin on his chest compromised his airway,” the coroner said.

“Harvey’s relatively light weight may have resulted in less muscle and head control, leading to difficulties in maintaining an open airway due to the way Harvey was positioned in the sling.”

Lee cleaned up staff at the center and the manufacturer, which had put a suffocation warning on the package and shipped the product with instructions for use.

The guide warned users about “particular features relevant to Harvey’s case”: the need to carry babies upright and lift their chins from their parents’ chests.

Witnesses said Harvey’s entire body was wrapped in the loose fitting sling and it was unclear to some that the sling contained a child.

After Harvey was pronounced dead at the hospital, his mother collapsed, devastated.

She declined to be involved in the investigation, but there is no evidence of criminal activity or breach of her duty of care.

Because the mother did not testify, the coroner was unable to determine whether the lack of a policy directive from NSW Health in April 2019 had any bearing on Harvey’s death.

NSW Health has since made “appropriate changes” to advice on the risks of baby slings, the coroner said.

The ban on slings and soft cloth carriers is a “sensitive” issue and is beyond the scope of the investigation, Lee said.

A 2015 French study of 19 infant deaths in soft baby carriers and slings worn by adults recommended not using them until the child is four months old.

While removing slings was probably the only way to safely eliminate risk, it may be impossible to implement while people with disabilities or from cultures that rely on slings are ostracized, the research was told.

Instead, the Central Coast Local Health District has enlightened parents with a mnemonic.

TICKS (Fixed, In Sight, Near, Keep Chin Off Chest, and Supported) advises parents to ensure baby is held firmly and up; is always in view of the parents; is close enough to kiss; is in a position where her chin is lifted off her chest and never curled; and that her back is well supported and in a natural position.

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https://7news.com.au/news/nsw/nsw-infant-in-fabric-sling-asphyxiated-coroner-finds–c-8537706 NSW child suffocated in cloth noose, coroner finds

James Brien

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