Northern Ireland news

SDLP's Nichola Mallon reveals personal impact of inquest into baby's death from co-sleeping

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon, who gave birth to a little boy last month, has said she will never 'co-sleep' with her baby again after reading about a mother who lost her son
Seanín Graham

A HIGH-PROFILE politician who gave birth three weeks ago has admitted to taking her sick baby into bed - but will "not be doing it again" after being moved by the words of a mother who lost her child to co-sleeping.

Deputy SDLP leader Nichola Mallon posted a tweet on social media describing her "heartbreak" after reading about the harrowing experience of Jolene O'Hanlon in yesterday's Irish News.

At an inquest into the death of her two-month-old son Declan on Monday, Glengormley woman Miss O'Hanlon (32) told a coroner how she "blamed herself" after taking her "freezing cold" infant into bed with her in the early hours of December 4, 2017.

Six hours later she turned to find him unresponsive and she tried desperately to revive him.

Ms Mallon, who also has two little girls, gave birth to her son, Emmett Thomas, in the Mater hospital last month.

After learning of the details of the inquest - the first of three into infant deaths in Belfast this week - the North Belfast MLA revealed that despite the warnings, she had taken her new-born into bed through exhaustion and because he wouldn't sleep.

While the health service has repeatedly highlighted the dangers of parents sharing beds with babies through public awareness campaigns and booklets being issued to new mums leaving hospitals, the SDLP politician said the message isn't getting through.

She told the Irish News: "You get the leaflets about co-sleeping but it's only when you read this mummy's story that the dangers hit home - and you realize how it could so easily happen to any of us."

During Monday's hearing, a top consultant who tried to resuscitate baby Declan revealed there had been three similar deaths in one week last December - with two of them in a single day.

Dr Brigette Bartholome, who is the clinical lead at Emergency Medicine at the Royal Belfast hospital for Sick Children, said they needed to reinforce the message that the "safest place for a baby to sleep is on their back in cot".

Miss O'Hanlon, who has five other children, said Ms Mallon's support had "really helped her" following the ordeal of having to relive her son's final moments during the inquest.

"This is something that isn't spoken about as no-one wants to admit to it and mothers feel they are being judged. For someone with the profile of Nichola Mallon to say this raises more awareness about this issue," she said.

"I don't want this to happen to anyone else."

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