To attempt to comprehend the pain and suffering endured by young Regina mother Amanda Brass is an exercise in futility.
In March of this year Amanda lost her five-hour-old baby girl, Cambria Tammie-Leigh Shuba. While the coroner’s final report is still not back, it appears the infant went into respiratory distress while sleeping in the hospital bed next to her mother. The cold reality is that Amanda, exhausted after labour, was advised by a nurse to leave Cambria lying beside her after an attempt to breastfeed. Less than an hour later she was brutally awoken to a nurse standing in her room screaming “She’s not breathing!” over her daughter’s tiny lifeless body.
As both a mother and a human being — unimaginable.
Only days later the Saskatchewan NDP put an inconsolable, broken-down Amanda in front of reporters in the provincial Legislature in a politicized attempt by the party to tie little Cambria’s death to healthcare staffing shortages.
At the time, the sobbing mother also questioned the Regina hospital’s “family-centered” policy of placing newborn’s in the room with their mothers, as opposed to in a hospital nursery.
Last week the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (RQHR) released six recommendations that surfaced from the critical incident report that followed the baby’s death. Despite the Opposition’s efforts, staffing shortages were not listed as a factor in the tragedy.
Co-sleeping — or the practice of putting a newborn in the same bed as their exhausted, post-delivery mothers — was listed as a contributing factor, and is up for policy review by the RQHR. Following the publicized recommendations, Amanda Brass and her family released a statement stating that the region has guaranteed them a new no-co-sleeping rule.
Reflecting on my own experience giving birth in Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital seven (really?!) years ago, two things immediately came to mind. First, despite my best efforts to be a screaming, swearing, thrashing, “OH MY GOD THIS HURTS!!” holy terror, the nurses and hospital staff were unbelievably awesome. Second, after my perfectly healthy son was born at 11.30pm (following a relatively brief twelve hour labour), he was whisked to the hospital nursery and I was off to a quiet room for sleep. Despite the fact that I forced my husband to repeatedly check on him in the nursery before retiring home to his own bed, I was cool with it.
The next night, however, my son was placed in my room in a bassinette. And with that, I haven’t had a normal night’s sleep since. (I joke).
Things have apparently changed in Saskatoon since 2004. According to the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR), today’s newborns and their mothers bunk together from day or night one, unless there is a clinical or social reason why they shouldn’t. The SHR lists many benefits to rooming together, including reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), newborn temperature and blood sugar regulation, and the facilitation of successful breastfeeding. RUH does have a newborn nursery, but it’s only used for babies who may require additional monitoring for social or physiological reasons.
As for co-sleeping, Saskatoon is thankfully already a good step ahead of Regina on this one. The SHR’s Joint Maternal Child Policy: Safe Sleeping does not allow co-sleeping. Instead, babies are placed in a bassinette in the room with mom, with nurses explaining the benefits of room sharing and the dangers of co-sleeping.
After everyone gets home, the sleeping arrangements are obviously a personal decision. For this mom, that meant wrapping up little Zackery “like a taco” and tucking him into his own bed, which he grew to love (and still does, for that matter). Co-sleeping has never appealed to me, and my perfectly healthy, just-plain-perfect seven-year-old son is the only proof that I need that it’s absolutely unnecessary.
Amanda Brass wanted to ensure her precious Cambria’s death wasn’t in vain, indicating that she wanted to make sure no future infant’s life is jeopardized by ill-advised maternal sleeping policies. Thanks to last week’s announcement by a contrite RQHR, hopefully Ms Brass can find some semblance of solace in knowing that she has very likely done just that.