A mother tragically had to bury her 14-week-old daughter after a bow headband suffocated the baby while her mother showered. She now wants all parents to be aware of the dangers hair accessories can pose.
Every parent has done it—jumped in the shower while baby takes a power nap. Infants are unpredictable, and the unpredictability of their sleeping habits can lead any parent to capitalize on an opportunity for thirty minutes of feeling human again. One mom returned home after a long walk with her baby and left her sleeping in a carry cot, forgetting that her daughter, Holly, was wearing a bow headband. Mom spent the next half hour enjoying a warm shower and changing her clothes. When she returned to check on Holly, her daughter was lifeless.
This mother’s friend, Leanne Wilson, shared an important warning to all parents on Facebook after the devastation her friend has endured.
Baby Holly’s bow headband had slid down her face during this quick nap. The bow was discovered on top of Holly’s nose and mouth, which prevented the baby from being able to breathe. It was discovered that Holly had died of suffocation asphyxiation.
Wilson, who is from Glasgow, Scotland, describes her friend as “utterly devastated” by this great loss, but adds that her friend wants other parents to hear this important warning. “She wanted me to share for other new mums the danger some of these baby fashion accessories can have.” The post, which was later deleted, had been shared over 80,000 times on Facebook, although police in Scotland said they were unable to confirm details of the incident.
Unintentional suffocation, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, “is the leading cause of injury-related death among children less than a year old.” Seventy percent of these injuries occur in bed. Prevention of suffocation risks in bed starts with “a firm mattress covered with a tight-fitting crib sheet” and nothing else. Dangers can multiply when we add things to baby’s crib after that. Bumper pads, stuffed animals, pillows, thick blankets and the like all pose a risk for baby—just as a headband slipping down can cause a baby to suffocate. It is easy to forget about an outfit accessory when putting baby in a crib you have worked to make safe, but checking for such dangers must be added to our routine when placing a baby in bed.
Like many adorable baby accessories, parents need to know that just because something looks cute or seems functional does not mean that it is safe under all circumstances. Many popular baby products have had similar devastating effects after parents overlooked warning labels or misused them.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) renewed its warning against toy chests in 2014 after two siblings were killed in Massachusetts. They write about “the dangers associated with storage, cedar, hope and toy chests. Lids on millions of storage chests and trucks can automatically latch shut, locking children inside and suffocating them.” Many of these deaths were caused by family heirloom storage chests, so if you have such an antique in your home, evaluate it using CPSC’s standards outlined in the above link.
Baby slings have posed another risk for the suffocation of infants. Slings are popular baby products in many cultures and have been for hundreds of years. In the past twenty years, however, slings have been associated with 14 deaths. Babies most at risk for suffocation in a sling include those “younger than four months of age, premature, low birth weight babies, and babies with colds and respiratory problems,” so their parents should take extra consideration before using a sling. “Suffocation/asphyxiation can occur when babies are contained entirely within the pouch of a sling with their face, including nose and mouth, pressed against the adult’s body, blocking their breathing.” A loss of air supply and death can occur in a matter of minutes.
To keep using your baby sling, spend a few extra minutes ensuring that baby is safely positioned inside. “Some slings tend to keep an infant in a curled, chin-to-chest position,” which may look cozy but could interfere with baby’s ability to breathe. CPSC advises parents to “make sure you can see your baby’s face or eyes in the sling and that your baby can see you. Also, you should place the baby’s face at or above the rim of a sling or wrap so that their face is visible.” (See below)
Consumer Reports lists baby products that are unsafe to use and explains why each item poses a danger and how to avoid the risks. They point out that car seats are not inherently dangerous (on the contrary, they keep kids safe on a daily basis), but leaving a child in an unbuckled or loosely buckled car seat can lead to entanglement and strangulation. The takeaway for parents is to read warning labels carefully and use products only as instructed by the manufacturer.
My mom’s heart goes out to the family of Holly, whose life was cut tragically short by an accident. As parents, we can learn from this and have a renewed diligence to look for hazards in our baby’s sleeping environment and in the products we use every day.