His mother told an inquest: “I wish to god I had taken on board the messaging that [slings] could be fatal.”
By Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter
A Walthamstow mother whose newborn died after being carried in a sling told an inquest he “would still be here” if she had been better warned of the risks.
Toby Barwick, aged two months, died at Whipps Cross Hospital on 12th February in 2021 after he suddenly stopped breathing earlier that day.
His mother Briony had walked to her sister’s house with him in a sling, having followed NHS advice about waiting until he weighed enough for it to be used.
However, at the first day of a four-day inquest into his tragic death today, she said there was a “dearth” of safety information about the suffocation risk posed by slings.
She told the court: “If I had read [NHS] guidance then I truly believe that my baby would still be here. I wish to god I had taken on board the messaging that [slings] could be fatal.”
Following Toby’s birth during the pandemic, Briony’s postnatal appointments with maternity staff, held by video call, reportedly featured no advice “whatsoever” about slings.
While the sling, manufactured by Baby K’tan, had a label warning that the baby’s face should be checked for suffocation “at all times”, Briony said: “I must have read it but the message didn’t land… it simply didn’t land. God knows I wish it had.”
Recalling the day Toby died, she said he had “screamed” while she walked to her sister’s house but fell asleep by the time they arrived.
She added: “The material was gently over his face and head but I had no reason to believe that there was anything to block his breathing because he had been screaming. I was unaware of the guidance and would never ever put the life of my son in danger.”
An hour or two after arriving at her sister’s, Briony realised Toby had stopped breathing and called an ambulance. Despite attempts to resuscitate him, he was later pronounced dead at Whipps Cross Hospital.
The inquest into Toby’s death is scheduled to last for most of this week and the court is due to hear from the sling’s manufacturer Baby K’tan, University College London Hospital, where Toby was born, and Barts Health, where Briony received maternity care.
For NHS guidance on slings and other baby items, click here.