SIDS: Baby dies in portable bed, parents warn to others



When Carly Wowk held her baby’s blue and soft, limp body she screamed a sound she had never heard before.

The 20-year-old had put little Zara down for an afternoon nap, but less than two hours later her precious girl had suffocated.

“My partner started doing CPR and working on her on the floor,” Carly tells Kidspot.

“I was screaming, I don’t know how to explain the noise coming out of my mouth, but I’ve never heard it before and never want to hear it again.

“I was screaming and crying at the same time, with no tears.”

Zara was just two months and five days old when she died on November 19, 2015 from asphyxiation – while sleeping in a bed that Carly wants taken off the market.



Little Zara passed away at just two months of age. Picture: Carly Wowk. 


“If I hadn’t used [that bed] Zara would still be here. She would be walking and celebrating her first birthday next week and getting her first cake, instead we will be going to her gravesite and releasing balloons, it’s a horrible tragedy,” she said.

“She started smiling at three weeks old but she honestly was given a certain number of days from birth. So I take it as a gift that I got to enjoy her smile for so long.”

Zara’s last day of life

When Carly put Zara down for her sleep at 2pm, she decided to have a quick sleep on the lounge, while her brother looked after Zara’s older sister Aaliyah, now three.

“You sleep when the baby sleeps. I thought I would close my eyes for ten minutes, but my partner got home from work and woke me up at 3.30pm,” she says.

She asked her partner to give her 10 more minutes rest.

Meanwhile her went to check on Zara and made the devastating discovery. “He just screamed,” Carly says. “He was screaming so loud.”


carly family2

Carly visits Zara’s grave with older sister Aaliyah. Picture: Carly Wowk. 


Zara was blue. She was swaddled in a wrap and had pushed herself up to the top of the little portable bed inside the cot.

Carly called an ambulance and her in-laws to look after Aaliyah. She was a mess, and screaming hysterically, but it still didn’t hit her that Zara could die.

“Even though she was blue, she had been without oxygen for a while, it didn’t occur to me then that she was never going to wake up,” Carly says.

“The paramedics looked at me and were working on her and told me to prepare for the worst because they didn’t really bring babies back when this happened. I didn’t understand.”

“I refused to believe she could die. I thought the 15 minutes between our house and hospital would give them time to revive her.”

Zara was pronounced dead at the hospital at 6pm.

“We were told to say goodbye.  Both me and my partner held each of her little hands. I held her for seven hours,” Carly says.

“The stupid, stupid bed”

The Canberra mum-of-two put Zara to sleep that fateful day in a portable soft cot insert, which she had also used for nine months with her first-born, Aaliyah.

“I wanted Zara and Aaliyah close to me. I put both my kids in it because I could pop them anywhere. In the lounge room on the coffee table, on the kitchen bench and I used it in the cot,” Carly explains.

But Carly is sure it was this bed that caused her little girl to suffocate. She has set up a Facebook page, Awareness for Zara Skye to warn other parents against using this type of bedding for babies.

“It’s now confirmed that our Zara girl suffocated in this stupid, stupid bed,” Carly said. “I do not want any more babies losing their life over something so stupid.”



Zara died from suffocating in a bed like the one pictured: Picture: Carly Wowk.


Carly is not able to name the company where her mother brought the little bed from, but said she didn’t need to because “they were sold everywhere”.

“This could have happened in a doona, but these are sold and promoted as sleeping aids, you have to watch you kids if you use these. They are a massive suffocation risk,” she says.

She wants these products to have large warning labels on them as potential suffocation hazards, but more than that – she ultimately wants them removed from shelves.

“The fact that my Zara’s death could have been completely avoided frustrates me the most,” she says.  “No parent deserves to feel the overwhelming pain I feel”

Safe sleeping for babies

SIDS and Kids recommends putting babies to sleep in a safe cot with mandatory safety standards, on a firm, well-fitted mattress.

Jill Green, SIDS and Kids General Manager Research Advocacy and Change said sleeping a baby in a product with soft sides and padding increased risks for sudden unexpected death in infancy (SIDS or fatal sleeping accidents)

“If a baby rolls over on a soft and puffy bedding the risk of sudden infant death is greatly increased because of face-down suffocation, or rolling towards a side which can cause carbon dioxide re-breathing.”

“Sadly we feel there is a gap – parents are confronted with so many products, they believe something must be safe if its sold in Australian stores.

“That’s not fair to a parent. It’s up to the manufacturer and stores to have a duty of care to make sure what they are selling is a product that is safe in all circumstances.”

How to sleep your baby safely

  • Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side
  • Sleep baby with head and face uncovered
  • Keep pillows, doonas and cot bumpers out of cots
  • Keep baby smoke-free before birth and after
  • Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day
  • Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult caregiver for the first six to 12 months
  • Breastfeed baby

For more information visit SIDS and Kids or download their Fast Facts brochure.