Woman convicted of wilfully choking baby

Last updated 05:00 23/11/2012

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A West Auckland mum has been convicted of suffocating her newborn baby at least four times before crying for help to resuscitate her.

The 20-year-old woman pleaded guilty at the High Court in Auckland on Wednesday to representative counts of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard.

Her baby daughter was born healthy at Waitakere Hospital in October 2010 but difficulties arose after the family returned home.

In the first few days the woman reported not coping and having trouble feeding and getting the baby to settle.

When the baby was four days old, the woman was trying to breastfeed while using a computer.

"[The baby] became still and was noticeably blue around the nose and mouth," court documents say.

"The defendant did not notice . . . but her partner noticed straight away when he took [her] off the defendant's breast."

The baby was taken to hospital before being discharged.

After the episode the woman told her midwife she was struggling to cope and had had thoughts of harming her child.

"The defendant told the midwife she had got so frustrated with the baby that she had raised her fist above the baby's head then punched the pillow right beside her."

When she told her midwife she had contemplated throwing the child out a window, she was referred to maternal mental health workers who put her on medication for post-natal depression.

About a month later court documents said the woman obstructed the baby's airway while breastfeeding. The baby stopped breathing and turned blue.

The woman then called out for her mother-in-law, who rushed into the room to find her granddaughter "still, cold and blue".

She performed CPR and the baby began breathing again.

In hospital that night, while breastfeeding at about 1.30am, the woman again obstructed the baby's airway before pushing the emergency button.

Nurses and doctors who resuscitated the baby noticed blood around her mouth and nose.

She was transferred to intensive care at Starship Children's Hospital where she was found to have melanea, black bowel motions from blood in the upper gastro-intestinal tract.

The baby was discharged three days later but she and her mother were recalled to hospital as the Child Protection Team were concerned at the lack of medical explanation for the episodes.

Mother and child were given their own room but at 8.45pm the woman again suffocated her baby.

The woman raised the alarm again and a medical team resuscitated the little girl who was "floppy with no pulse".

The baby remained in hospital until she was discharged into Child, Youth and Family care.

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"When spoken to by police, the defendant said she had no idea why [her daughter] had stopped breathing and stated that she would never harm her baby."

The woman pleaded guilty and was remanded on bail to be sentenced in February.

Doctors said each incident was a "major, life-threatening event" for the baby but it was not yet known if the girl suffered brain damage from the oxygen deprivation.

She was placed in the care of her grandmother when she was nine months old.

She is now 2 years old and described as a "vibrant and healthy toddler".

The mother was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment before sentencing.

- Western Leader

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