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Smothered baby’s family demand action

A woman who accidentally smothered her newborn baby says health authorities aren't doing enough to warn exhausted new mothers about the risks of breastfeeding infants in bed.

Bela Heidrich was about two hours old when she died at Rockhampton hospital in 2008.

Her tired mother, Zelia Blomfield, had been breastfeeding her, placed in bed on her side, with a pillow behind Bela.

Bela's post-mortem examination found she died due to asphyxia, due to "over-laying".

But her family says Queensland Health is not responding urgently enough to coronial recommendations.

One month after the coroner recommended that all Queensland Health birthing services have a specific policy on bed sharing, the family is frustrated by the lack of action.

Blomfield's lawyer, Christine Mercer of Maurice Blackburn, says the response to date has been "inadequate".

"The coroner made a series of recommendations about reforming the way new mothers are cared for in all public maternity hospitals across the state," she said.

"So far Queensland Health have said they will only consider the findings."

In a statement Mercer said Blomfield wanted Queensland Health to emphasise to new mothers the risks of breastfeeding newborns while lying down in bed feeling exhausted.

She said the department had been silent on the issue, and she wants to see progress within six months.

"I want to see them taking this issue seriously," she said.

"I hate the thought of this happening to anybody else."

Queensland Health's John Wakefield, executive director of patient safety and quality improvement service, said a definitive response to the coronial recommendations was being prepared.

"Relevant stakeholders, including, with her permission, Ms Blomfield are being consulted on the implementation," he said in a statement.

"The coroner's findings and recommendations have been widely circulated to hospitals, the statewide maternity and neonatal clinical network, the office of the chief nurse and maternity and child safety branch.

"Queensland Health is committed to taking whatever action is required to reduce the likelihood of this tragedy happening again."

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