A FIVE-week-old baby died in his mother's arms after they both fell asleep while he was being fed, an inquest heard this week.
The hearing was told that while the cause of death was sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death, the incidence was increased when babies slept with an adult.
And coroner Michael Singleton said that because of the possibility that Harrison Coward's airways may have been accidentally obstructed he would have to record an open verdict.
The inquest heard that Harrison's parents, Michael Coward and his partner Lisa Boyle returned to their home in Collingwood, Clayton-le-Moors, after attending a family barbeque.
Michael put their daughter to bed and Lisa was sitting on the settee feeding Harrison when he came down.
They all fell asleep on the settee but Michael woke when he spilled a can of beer.
He went upstairs to dry off and when he came down Lisa said there was something wrong with Harrison.
She had found some blood on his bib and he seemed very limp.
Dr Melanie Newbold, consultant paediatric pathologist at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, said sudden infant death syndrome was used to describe children dying suddenly.
Dr Newbold said: "In lots of ways its not a very helpful term.
"It is a description and not a true syndrome and probably covers a number of causes of death.
"We do know the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome is increased where the baby is sleeping with an adult and it is particularly increased where they are sleeping on a settee or a chair."
She added: "I am not able to say whether this is a natural cause or an accident."
Recording an open verdict Mr Singleton said Harrison and his mum had fallen asleep while he was taking a feed but the pathologist was unable to say whether that had been significant.
He said: "There is the possibility this was caused by a natural disease but it is also possible this was the result of some form of accidental airway obstruction that would not be detectable at post-mortem.
"It would be wrong of me to simply toss a coin and pick one or the other and so I must record an open verdict."