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New Mom Smothers Baby After Falling Asleep While Breastfeeding, Sues Hospital

Breastfeeding, new mom, rooming in, pregnancy, labor and delivery

Is your newborn baby safer rooming-in or staying in the nursery that first night?

After a full day of labor and delivery, new mom Zelia Blomfield was exhausted. She had just given birth to her baby daughter, Bela Maddison Lee Heidrich and kept the baby in the hospital bed while she began to breastfeed. She fell asleep and when she woke up just an hour later, her daughter had been smothered.

Blomfield is now filing charges against the hospital and claims that her midwife helped position her newborn baby at her breast. She also says the midwife told her it was OK for her to fall asleep. Blomfield believes it was the hospital staff’s responsibility to check in on her to keep the baby safe.

Blomfield maintains that the hospital was negligent and she has suffered post traumatic stress disorder since the death of her daughter.

The topic of rooming in with your baby has been a subject of debate. No hospital forces a mother to keep the baby in the room with her (as far as I know), and many women love the idea of being able to watch their newborn all night long as opposed to handing the baby over to the nursery staff. They don’t want their baby to spend his or her first night in a room filled with other babies where they might not get as much attention as if they stayed in the room with mom. On the other hand, some moms choose to not have their newborn stay, and ask the staff to take the baby to the nursery at night.

When my daughter Kate was born, I was thrilled to have her room in with me. I loved the idea of being able to stay with her all night. Unlike my first daughter Amanda, who was a calm baby and slept most of all of the time when she was just born, Kate was antsy. She squirmed and cried every few minutes. After my husband went home to take care of Amanda, I kept Kate in the room with me. She woke up about every twenty minutes and after a strenuous day of labor, visiting relatives, and pure exhaustion, I was so tired, I could barely stay awake. I picked her up from the mock crib next to my hospital bed and laid her down next to me. In just a few seconds, I must have dozed off and I jumped up and realized I fell asleep which scared me because although my arms were around my daughter, she could have easily fallen off the bed.

A couple of years later when my son was born, I kept him in the room with me until my husband went home and then asked him to bring my son to the nursery on his way out. I knew I was way too exhausted to be able to care for him during the night. I also knew that would be my only night to sleep. The next day I would be on my way home.

I’m on the fence about rooming in and every mother’s situation is different. Some mothers have complications and are still on medication the first night after delivery. Some moms are allowed to have their husbands stay in the hospital room with them and they can help with overnight baby care. It’s a very individual choice.

My heart goes out to Blomfield. No matter where the blame falls, it’s nothing short of a tragedy.

Image: Flick/tmhall922

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