First-time mother who followed midwives' breastfeeding advice wakes to find newborn choked to death

Ann Bradley from Harwood, Lancashire woke up in shock to find her son Louie Francis 'white and floppy' in her arms

                            First-time mother who followed midwives' breastfeeding advice wakes to find newborn choked to death
(Source:Getty Images)

A coroner has reportedly blasted all the midwives at a hospital after a newborn baby almost choked to death when his extremely tired mother fell asleep while breastfeeding him. Ann Bradley from Harwood, Lancashire woke up in shock to find her son, Louie Francis, 'white and floppy' in her arms in the early hours of August 27 last year.

According to reports by the Daily Mail, Bradley went to the corridor at the Royal Bolton Hospital with her newborn baby in her arms so as to desperately find a midwife,  but attempts by doctors to resuscitate Louie were unsuccessful.

Now, one year after the incident, Assistant coroner John Pollard has spoken out against the advice given by midwives who taught Bradley the feeding technique of lying side-by-side in bed with her child.

Pollard said that the technique which has been placed to help mothers struggling to breastfeed was absolutely against the national advice to avoid 'co-sleeping', since mothers are likely to be very tired after giving birth and at risk of falling asleep. He even mentioned that it was 'extraordinary' that a new mother was left alone in bed with her baby, especially since she was extremely tired after a long labor.

Bradley, who was a first-time-mother, told the court she was never informed about not lying in bed while feeding, adding that she chose to stay in the hospital an extra night because she was having difficulty breastfeeding. She said: "I was happy to stay. I felt it was a good idea because of how badly the breastfeeding was going."

However, Jane Westhead, the midwife who taught Bradley the technique, said in her statement that bed sharing is discouraged and bed safety awareness is usually discussed. She even referred to specific guidelines about bed sharing in her evidence, which the coroner later refused to accept citing that advice given had been contradictory.

On the other hand, Angela Helleur, who is also a midwife expert and chief nursing officer for Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, told the coroner in her statement that it is 'common practice' for midwives to advise on breastfeeding in bed. 

She said: "We haven't got much option in terms of where the breastfeeding occurs. The important advice to give is if women feel tired or sleepy to put the baby back in the crib."

The coroner in charge also expressed concern that breastfeeding in bed sometimes happens at the request of the mother, and the feeding moms usually have the curtains drawn around the bed, which is a serious reason why problems could not be noticed quickly. Westhead explained that this scenario takes place because women don't want people walking past while they are breastfeeding.  

Pollard, after recording a narrative verdict, stated that Louie died as a result of undiagnosed bronchopneumonia and symptoms of a common cold, added with an accidental obstruction of his airways whilst in bed following a breastfeed. The coroner has now written to the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust raising his concerns about breastfeeding advice that is currently being given out by midwives and healthcare assistants as well as the absence of some details from standard records.

Following the inquest Val Clare, Head of Midwifery at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: "It is such a tragedy when the unexpected death of a baby takes place. This was a very rare event and we feel for Louie's family. We are a Level Three UNICEF baby friendly initiative accredited unit which is the highest standard for breastfeeding and is a prestigious award, however, we always strive for improvement and so, taking into account the coroner's comments, will review guidance."