Newborn baby dies after suffocating while co-sleeping

Just tragic

December 17 2018

A newborn baby has died in Tasmania while co-sleeping with her mother, however her death could have been prevented, a coroner has reported.

Rhiannon Pearl Vanessa Pitchford would still be alive if Child Safety Services (CSS) had carried out a proper risk assessment and removed her from her parent’s care.

The two-month-old baby died while co-sleeping with mum Kylie Haywood at a home in East Devonport, according to a report from Nine News.

On the night of her baby’s death, Kylie took over-the-counter medication and was heavily sedated. The baby’s father, Joshua Pitchford, was injecting morphine with other people in the home.

At one point in the night, Rhiannon was placed beside her mum on a mattress when she woke up for feeding.

She was found in the early hours of the morning partially face-down on the bed.

The coroner reported that she did not die from natural causes, but was exposed to a high level of smoking in the house, considering her bronchitis, and her parents' drug taking.

Concerns about the baby's welfare were raised while Ms Haywood was pregnant but CSS failed to follow up, it is believed.

Rhiannon had an older sibling who had endured serious physical abuse, but this information was not included in reports, nor was the history of the family’s drug abuse taken into account.

CSS also failed to conduct thorough home visits to determine the suitability of the home for a newborn and did not speak with the family about safe sleeping practices.

Commissioner for Children and Young People Leanne McLean has requested a detailed briefing from child services on reform progress.

“Every baby has the right to the best possible start in life, to grow up in a safe and healthy environment and to receive the help and protection they need to thrive,” she said.