Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


Mom Who Accidentally Suffocated Her Newborn Baby Sues Hospital

Photograph by Twenty20

Monica Thompson and her husband Graham struggled with infertility for 12 years before getting pregnant with a baby boy—their “miracle baby,” Jacob—born July 30, 2012. Monica delivered Jacob via Cesarean section at a hospital in the couple’s hometown of Portland, Oregon.

At first, everything was normal for the new family. Jacob was healthy and, like a lot of C-section moms, Monica stayed in the hospital for a few days to recuperate.

On August 2, four days after Jacob was born, Monica was given a mix of painkillers and sleep aids by hospital staff. Sometime after that, her son was brought to her room from the nursery so she could breastfeed.

And that’s when things went from normal to tragic.

Monica dozed off while nursing and when she woke up about an hour later—“still drowsy and groggy,” as she describes—she realized the absolute worst had happened: Her son had become trapped beneath her and suffocated. Jacob was revived and put on life support, but it was too late.

Six days later, Jacob was pronounced dead.

This devastating story is making headlines five years later in 2017 because Monica and Graham just filed an $8.6 million lawsuit against the hospital. According to a summary of their court filing (via People), the couple alleges that the hospital’s role in administering narcotic painkillers and sleep aids to Monica and then leaving her unsupervised with her son is directly linked to the tragic events that unfolded.

Sometimes accidents, even tragic ones, just happen. But sometimes we can do something about it.

In response to the lawsuit, the hospital—Portland Adventist Medical Center—said the incident is under review.

Monica, however, released a written statement to People to clarify what this lawsuit is really all about for her.

“Jacob was a true miracle baby,” she wrote. “My firstborn and only son. I am sharing our story in the hopes that no mother or family will ever have to suffer through a tragedy such as this. What happened to us could’ve easily been prevented had the nurses been doing their job.”

Monica and Graham now have a toddler daughter, but admit that they still mourn the loss of Jacob. The couple are not alone in their grief. Approximately 3,500 babies die each year in the United States because of “unsafe sleep environments” that result in suffocation or strangulation, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. A 2014 study in the Journal of Perinatology noted the deaths of 15 healthy infants while sharing beds with their mothers in U.S. maternity wards.

Monica hopes Jacob’s story can help save lives. And one way this can happen is for new moms, moms-to-be, their partners, and the hospitals and birthing centers where they deliver to become better educated about the support moms need—and deserve—during those first few hours and days postpartum: support for breastfeeding, support for newborn sleep care and rooming in, and support for how to cope and keep babies safe when narcotic medications are part of the mix.

Sometimes accidents, even tragic ones, just happen. But sometimes we can do something about it.

As Monica wrote, “I am Jacob’s voice in making sure his life won’t be in vain.”

We can help by making his voice louder.

More from baby