Those first few weeks of parenting a newborn are often a blur for new parents, between the feedings, the diaper changes, and the constant exhaustion. The fatigue can be overwhelming, especially for breastfeeding moms who are on demand around the clock. But one mom's tragic post about falling asleep while breastfeeding serves as a painful warning to other new moms that no matter how tired you might be, it's important to take precautions to safely breastfeed your child.
Kristin Hoffmann, a mom from Indianapolis, Indiana, posted a devastating announcement to her Facebook page on June 5: Her 7-week-old son, John Thomas Michael Abernathy, died of suffocation after breastfeeding. Hoffmann described how she had fallen asleep while breastfeeding her newborn son in bed:
It greatly pains me and shames me that this happened... My precious son slipped off my breast and into the covers of my bed early Sunday morning and into heaven. The way we discovered him was a tragedy...
Losing a child is quite possibly a parent's worst nightmare, and Hoffmann's post offered a warning to other breastfeeding moms that no matter how tired they might be, they should always "get up and go to a chair."
Sheree Young, a registered nurse, spoke in a video for Premiere Health about the safety issues that can happen when a nursing mother falls asleep while breastfeeding her baby. Young noted that it's "perfectly okay" for nursing moms to breastfeed in bed, but cautions that falling asleep while nursing in bed can create a dangerous situation. "Once mom starts to get drowsy or a little sleepy, please put the baby back in his or her own crib," Young said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed accounted for 25 percent of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) in 2015.
It's statistics like these that prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to issue new safe sleep guidelines for parents in October 2016. These new safe sleep guidelines recommend that parents shouldn't bed share with their babies, especially babies under 4 months, as the evidence reviewed by the AAP revealed that the risk of SIDS and SUID are much higher for this age group. "We recognize the fact that not only do mothers often inadvertently fall asleep with the infant in their bed, but many mothers choose to bed share," Lori Feldman-Winter, AAP sleep guidelines co-author told NPR.
As a mom who breastfed, I can relate: Sometimes falling asleep while nursing was less a choice and more of a bodily demand. Even so, no matter how exhausted you might be, your baby's safety has to come first. Tragically for Hoffmann, a mistake any mom could have made cost her son his life — but now she's speaking out to save other women the same heartbreak.