Grieving mother issues warning after toddler smothered by teddy bears

Connie Rose died after suffocating on a teddy bear in her bed.
Connie Rose died after suffocating on a teddy bear in her bed. Photo: Facebook

A heartbroken mum is urging parents not to overload children's beds with stuffed toys after her little girl tragically suffocated on a teddy bear.

On 6 March, Dexy Leigh Walsh of Dundee, Scotland, discovered her 18-month-old Connie had died overnight, believed to have been smothered by a large stuffed toy. The toy had been placed in the toddler's bed to prevent her from falling down the side.

Despite Ms Walsh attempting CPR, Connie was pronounced dead at the scene.

In an emotional post to Facebook, the devastated mum shared that she was blaming herself for her daughter's death.​

"I had packed down the side of her bed with teddies and placed a big one on top of the smaller teddies to stop [Connie] from falling down the side of her bed," she wrote. "She did exactly that," Ms Walsh continued, "but as it was all teddy bears she went under the massive teddy and fell asleep with the angels. All I think about now is what if I just left it empty she would still be here maybe with just a small bump on her head.

"It's all 'what ifs' now".

Ms Walsh explained that she wanted every parent to be aware of her "little princess' tragic story", in the hope that it may save another child's life.

"Let them fall," she wrote. "Don't try to stuff small places up with soft things. Just leave it empty." 

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The devastated mum also shared that there was a bed guard on Connie's bed and the "smallest gap" from her wall to her bed. 

"That's where I had put all her teddies," she wrote, calling it the biggest regret of her life. Urging parents to remove everything from their kids' beds, Ms Walsh added, "they don't need anything on their bed but a cover."

The grieving mum described that the family had been left "broken" by the beloved little girl's death.

"I miss you Connie so much," she said. "I'm so glad and proud you were my little girl.Thank you for being the most perfect and loveable baby. I hope you are having fun princess. Sleep tight baby."

A clip on the Facebook page, Connie Rose Awareness, also shows the moment family and friends released pink balloons into the sky to honour Connie's memory at her funeral service on 21 March.

"I really hope all the things I'm trying to do make a difference out there," Ms Walsh wrote, adding that her eldest daughter, Dior, talks about her baby sister every day. "Please think about what's on your kids bed and around it you really never know what can happen.. give your babies an extra squeeze tonight."

According to Australian organisation Red Nose, soft toys should be kept out of the sleeping environment for babies under seven months of age, as they may cover their nose and mouth and interfere with breathing.

"The risk posed by suffocation by the presence of soft objects in the baby's sleeping environment outweighs any benefit to the baby from a soft toy," Red Nose says.  "It is therefore advised not to place soft toys and other soft objects in the cot for babies under seven months of age."

But what about older children?
Red Nose advises that while some babies over seven months of age may like having a small object such as a soft toy to provide "comfort and connection" when separated from their parents, cots should be kept free of: "large soft toys, pillows, bumpers, activity centres and anything else that could be 'stacked' to assist a young child/toddler to climb out of the cot."
In their "cot to bed" safety guidelines, Red Nose advises that parents should be aware of not moving their babies from cot to bed too soon. "For safety reasons, when a young child is observed attempting to climb out of a cot and looking like they might succeed, it is time to move them out of the cot," they say, noting that this is usually between two and three-and-a-half years of age, but could be as early as 18 months.  
Red nose provides the following guidelines for parents using "adult height beds".
  • If you have decided to attach portable bed rails to an adult height bed to prevent your child from falling, be mindful that children can become trapped if the rails are not fitted properly.
  • Before placing your child to bed, check that the portable bed rails fit tightly against the side of the mattress and there are no gaps between the mattress and the bed rail. This will help prevent a child's body or head slipping through and becoming trapped.
  • Pillows, soft bedding and toys should not be placed against the bed rail. There have been cases of asphyxia in environments cluttered with soft toys. A young child can suffocate if their face becomes pressed against them.
  • Wait until baby is two years of age and is no longer sleeping in a cot or portable cot before introducing a pillow for sleep.