A BABY girl, just six-and-a-half months old and born prematurely, asphyxiated after she was left sleeping overnight in a car seat on a sitting-room floor, an inquest has heard.
Baby Katie Reilly, of Kilcross Court, Sandyford, Co Dublin, was found unresponsive in the car seat by her mother, Laura Reilly, on the morning of January 8, 2008.
A post-mortem examination by the state pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy found that the death was a sudden unexpected death in infancy due to prematurity and positional asphyxia.
The findings suggested that the baby was dead for a few hours before she was discovered, the state pathologist told the inquest.
Dublin City Coroner's Court heard the baby had been in the car seat for up to five-and-a-half hours.
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said it was a sudden death of a vulnerable infant because of her size and weight, with a major risk factor of positional asphyxia.
"The major risk factor is the position in which the baby was in," he said.
A jury of four men and three women returned a verdict of death by misadventure and recommended that child car seats should not be used in the home as "prolonged rest places" for infants and should only be for car use.
Giving evidence at Dublin City Coroner's Court yesterday, Professor Cassidy said the position the child would have been in meant her breathing would have been compromised.
Because of the baby's small size, instead of being propped up in the car seat, she was able to slide down and her neck could have kinked.
She was prevented from sliding out of the chair by the strap between her legs, the court heard.
The post-mortem examination found the baby, whose weight had been increasing, was dehydrated and had severe nappy rash.
It appeared that she had been left in wet nappies for extensive periods.
The court heard that Ms Reilly had returned from the pub around 2.15am on January 8 having left her six children, the eldest of whom was 12, at home on their own.
Ms Reilly was accompanied by a barman who came back to the house for a few drinks. Katie, who was asleep in the car seat in the sitting room, woke up shortly afterwards.
Ms Reilly had also been at the pub during the day with the baby and two of her other children, the inquest heard.
She told the inquest that Katie normally slept in her pram but that she had left her in the car seat to go asleep before she left for the pub at around 10.00pm.
She left the pub at midnight and returned home before leaving again between 12.30am and 1.00am after trying to feed Katie.
When Ms Reilly woke at 8.50am and went to give Katie a bottle she found that her daughter, who was 13 weeks premature at birth, was unresponsive.
The baby was pronounced dead at St Vincent's University Hospital a short time later.
Gardai decided to investigate further after fresh blood was found in the baby's nappy.
Babysitter Catherine Daly told the inquest that she had in the past wondered whether or not the children were safe because "most of the time they were left to their own devices".
There were proceedings at district court level against Ms Reilly for child neglect of all of her six children and she had pleaded guilty to all six charges.
Ms Reilly was placed on probation for 18 months. She told the inquest that her children were no longer in her care. Katie's father, James Kavanagh, did not attend the inquest.