A West Sussex mum has shared the harrowing story of the death of her son at just 70 days old in the hope that no other parents will have to go through what she has.
Louise Walters’ son Soul George Jackson died due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 2012.
She has shared her story as part of a new campaign to raise awareness about safer sleeping practices which, if ignored, can so easily end in tragedy.
“He was in my arms in the bed. I’d fallen asleep that night and I woke up and he was dead in my arms. I’d been asleep 20 minutes if that,” she said.
“The pain you go through you carry with you forever. Once you’ve lost a child that’s part of you, you never ever lose that pain. You just learn to put a brave face on it.”
Soul was just 10 weeks old when he died. Since his death, Louise, 37, has given up smoking and transformed her life.
“People don’t listen until it happens to them and then they make the changes,” she said.
“They always think it won’t be me, like I did. I screamed in the hospital ‘Make him breathe, make him breathe. This happens to other people, not me.’
“Before Soul died, somehow I justified it in my own head that smoking when you were pregnant was alright. Having the odd drink throughout pregnancy is alright. It’s not alright.”
Louise is now working with West Sussex County Council, NHS workers, and the Lullaby Trust and is bravely fronting a new campaign to make parents, grandparents and carers of infants more aware of safer sleeping practices.
“I hope by coming forward people will take notice of safer sleeping practices and take action to avoid common risk factors. I don’t want anybody to have to go through what I went through.”
On average five babies a year die in West Sussex due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome with 270 deaths across the UK.
Christmas is a particularly risky time as safe sleeping routines are often disrupted and more people drink and smoke than at other times of the year.
Parents, grandparents and carers of babies are encouraged to:
Always place baby on their back to sleep
Keep baby smoke free during pregnancy and after they are born
Place baby in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for six months
Breastfeed your baby if you can
Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition
Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
Don’t sleep in the same bed as your baby if you smoke, drink or take drugs or if your baby was premature or was of a low birth weight
Avoid letting your baby get too hot
Don’t cover your baby’s head while sleeping or use loose bedding.
Six months after Soul died, Louise fell pregnant again and Bella was born on 31 January 2014.
“The initial knee jerk reaction is I have to have another baby. You are desperate.
“But I knew I needed to be mentally stronger. I needed to grow a bit first and get over this and focus on that new child.
“With Bella’s pregnancy, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I stopped smoking immediately. I haven’t smoked since and I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol until I stopped breast feeding, two weeks ago.”
“Bella was a healthy weight, different from Soul, because I hadn’t been smoking. She’s brought the sunshine back out, she has brought us all out of the dark.”
Louise received great support from the community and Lullaby Trust after Soul died.
“My neighbours were unbelievable. Every person down in my road clubbed together and held me up. They all did a fundraising event for Soul’s headstone.
“When I had Bella I was petrified that she would stop breathing. The Lullaby Trust provided amazing support, they gave me thermometers to create the right room temperature and they got me a baby monitor, it flashes every time they take a breath.
“Please, please take notice of the safer sleeping advice. Every sleep counts.”
Lucy McKeon, Research and Information Manager at The Lullaby Trust, said: “Like Louise, five families every week in the UK experience the most devastating loss; the sudden and unexplained death of baby.
“We thank Louise for her bravery in speaking out about the death of baby Soul and for now campaigning to raise awareness of safer sleep practices.
“At The Lullaby Trust we know that following simple safer sleep advice can save babies’ lives and we aim to support families in making an informed choice about how to sleep their babies.
“We have a range of free advice on our website including downloadable and free to order safer sleep guides. We also run a dedicated Helpline for parents and professionals who have any questions about safer sleep.”
Visit www.lullabytrust.org.uk/ for more information
For bereavement support: 0808 802 6868
For information & advice: 0808 802 6869