January 19, 2018 1.56 pm This story is over 69 months old

Safety warning after death of Gainsborough baby boy Alex Masters

A tragic case.

A doctor has advised that is not safe for babies to sleep in car seats overnight or to be fed milk with their bottles “propped up” following the death of a four-month-old boy from Gainsborough.

Dr Russell Wate carried out a safeguarding investigation after Alex Masters died while being looked after by his godmother, Claire Sawyer, 41, at a flat in Lincoln.

Alex died in hospital on October 3, 2015. Photo: Media Lincs

An inquest at Lincoln Cathedral Centre heard that Miss Sawyer had let Alex sleep in his car seat and had fed him milk by propping his bottle up with a blanket.

Alex died on October 3, 2015, after being rushed to Lincoln County Hospital. There was milk in his lungs but a cause of death could not be found.

His parents had only agreed to let Alex stay with his godmother because they thought her adult daughter would be present, and a doctor had also told Alex’s young mother that she needed help after suffering back pain following his birth.

Miss Sawyer, from Gainsborough, was arrested on suspicion of murder but Lincolnshire Police did not bring any criminal charges because the cause of Alex’s death could not be proved.

In her evidence to the inquest, Miss Sawyer, claimed she fell asleep on the sofa after getting Alex out of the car seat to feed and change him.

But the inquest heard there was also evidence that Miss Sawyer had let Alex sleep overnight in his car seat and had used a blanket to “prop-up” his milk bottle.

Dr Wate concluded there was no evidence that any harm to Alex could be predicted, but he made a number of safety recommendations in his Safeguarding report.

They included that all parents and safeguarding professionals should be made aware that “bottle prop feeding” was an unwise practice.

During the inquest consultant paediatrician Dr James Bosman said that “bottle propping” was a known cause of choking as babies did not have the strength to push it away.

Dr Wate also said there was recent research from Bristol University which suggested sleeping overnight in a car seat was not safe for babies.

He also recommended that it was unsafe for adults to fall asleep on the sofa with a baby, with the risk heightened by consuming alcohol and illegal or prescription drugs.

The senior coroner for Lincolnshire, Stuart Fisher, will give his verdict on how Alex died on February 8.