Nappy sack suffocation warning after two baby deaths in 14 months

Breast Is Best

Parents are being warned about the dangers of babies suffocating on nappy sacks following two deaths in Derbyshire in just over a year.

Both deaths were caused by babies obtaining one of the thin plastic sacks used for nappy disposal and putting it over or into their mouths.

Derbyshire County Council and Derby City Council are now backing the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ (RoSPA) campaign to raise awareness about nappy sack dangers nationally.

There have been at least 16 confirmed cases of baby deaths connected to nappy sacks due to suffocation or choking in England and Wales – including one in Derbyshire and one in Derby.

A five-month-old girl from Derbyshire died in October 2013 after covering her nose and mouth with a nappy sack. The coroner recorded a verdict of sudden death in association with a plastic nappy sack after hearing evidence she liked grasping items and had reached a partially used nappy sack which had somehow got within her reach from a cot-top changer fixed to the end of the cot.

In the most recent case an inquest last month concluded a six-month-old baby from Derby died of accidental suffocation caused by a nappy sack in December 2014. 

Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor Dave Allen said: “These two local deaths of very young babies were tragic accidents which have had a devastating effect on the families involved. 

“That’s why we’re keen to support RoSPA’s campaign to highlight the dangers of suffocation from this product and other plastic or packaging.”

Derby City Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and Safeguarding Councillor Sara Bolton said: “Our deepest sympathies go out to the two families who have suffered such tragic losses.

“We fully support any work to raise the awareness of the dangers of nappy sacks and are pleased to be working with RoSPA on this campaign.”

RoSPA research shows that many parents tend to store nappy sacks close to the cot or under the mattress for convenience while nappy changing at night – but this can be dangerous if within the baby’s reach while they are left unattended to sleep.

RoSPA Public Health Advisor Sheila Merrill said: “Sadly, RoSPA is made aware of one to two nappy sack-related deaths a year. While most people are well aware plastic bags can be dangerous to children they don’t associate these risks with nappy sacks so are less likely to take the same safety precautions.

“Nappy sacks are made from light flimsy plastic that is easy for babies and young children to grasp and they instinctively discover the world by putting things in their mouth, but once in their mouths they find it difficult to remove and can suffocate or choke.

“We hope families and carers will take on board advice from our campaign.”

RoSPA advises parents and carers to:

•Always keep nappy sacks and other plastic bags or wrapping away from babies and young children

•Never place nappy sacks in or near a baby's cot, mattress or pram

•Be aware nappy sacks are extremely light and flimsy and can be easily blown off a high surface or across a room by a draught or by opening or shutting a door

•Buy nappy sacks on a roll if possible

Find out more about RoSPA’s nappy sack safety campaign at

Published: 01/09/2015