Whether parents decide that breastfeeding or formula-feeding is best for their family, one thing's for sure: Keeping a baby's tummy satisfied is still a full-time gig. This around-the-clock responsibility is also one that can also be exhausting for new parents, particularly when they're living on a few hours of sleep at a time. With that said, safe feeding habits should always remain a priority. Breastfeeding mothers should avoid falling asleep while sitting up and holding their nursing baby — to avoid accidental falls and suffocation, for example. Likewise, experts recommend against propping up bottles for babies who are formula-fed. And, tragically, this mom is now warning parents against bottle propping after her baby died, and her message is so important.
On Oct. 3, 2015, a 4-month-old baby died in England after his bottle was reportedly propped up and he was left alone, a coroner recently concluded, according to Lincolnshire Live. Baby Alexander Masters was being cared for at the time by his godmother, Claire Sawyer, while his mother, Chloe Masters, was coping with severe back pain, the publication reported. Sawyer had originally claimed she had fallen asleep after giving Alex a bottle of milk on her sofa, according to the BBC. However, the coroner ruled that Sawyers was an "unreliable witness," the BBC reported, and concluded that "she had left the baby to feed in that way."
The coroner ruled that the infant ended up choking to death on milk as he inhaled milk into his lungs after Sawyer had propped up his bottle on a blanket while baby Alex was in a car seat, according to the BBC. Sawyer had reportedly fallen asleep on the couch and woke up to the baby leaning forward in the car seat, not breathing, and with a blanket over his face. Little Alex died after he was taken to Lincoln County Hospital, the BBC reported.
“It will always haunt me," the baby's mother told Lincolnshire Live. "I will never know what happened to my little boy that morning.” The bereaved mother also shared words of warning to parents and caregivers concerning the common — yet dangerous — method of bottle-feeding an infant. According to Lincolnshire Live, Masters added:
Never, ever, ever, bottle prop under any circumstances. You could be put in this situation with your own child. I did it and thought it would never cause anything like this and I was supervising. But people can lose concentration.
For the record, expert recommendations echo this sentiment. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), caregivers should never prop up a bottle and allow a baby to feed alone. "Not only will you miss the opportunity to bond with her while she feeds, but there’s also a danger that she’ll choke or the bottle will slip out of position," the AAP explains. "Propping the bottle also increases the risk of ear infections. We do not recommend devices to hold a bottle in a baby's mouth — they could be dangerous."
The coroner in this case, Stuart Fisher, also took this tragic death as an opportunity to bring awareness for safe bottle-feeding. "I would like to say how very sorry I am that your little boy died," Fisher said, according to Lincolnshire Live. "It is always, for me, despite doing this for many years, always a great tragedy dealing with an inquest of a baby's death. Fisher continued:
What I would say, which I am not saying to lecture, perhaps what has come out of this is the great danger of bottle propping.
I'm completely devastated for this poor mother. I think another important lesson from in this tragic case is for parents to make sure caregivers are armed with information they need to avoid putting your little one in potentially dangerous situations. Stress the importance of putting the baby to sleep on his or her back, on a safe, flat, and firm surface. Make sure they know to avoid loose bedding, pillows, and blankets. And never, ever, feed a baby with a propped bottle.