A 19-day-old baby boy suffocated to death after co-sleeping with his father for the first time, findings by a coroner revealed on Friday 29 November 2019.
State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam ruled the case as “yet another unfortunate illustration of the increased risk of inadvertent suffocation resulting from co-sleeping with one’s infant, for however brief a time.”
Baby’s first-time co-sleeping
According to media reports, the mother usually slept on the sofa in their Chai Chee flat with the newborn while her husband slept in the master bedroom with their older child.
But on 8 June last year, the baby’s father asked his wife to switch places and sleep with the older child in the master bedroom instead, as he had to do some work.
That night, the father worked almost until 6.30 am in the morning and when he finally went to sleep in the master bedroom, the wife placed the baby next to him on the bed.
The mother said she decided to do this because she did not want to leave him alone after his feeding as he was prone to vomiting.
She then placed the baby on his back and cocoon-wrapped him on the bed. Afterwhich, she tapped her husband to inform him that the baby was beside him and asked him to be careful.
However, the husband later revealed in court that he was too exhausted from his work and did not hear her.
When the mother returned to the room about an hour later, she saw a pillow on top of the newborn baby which covered the upper half of his body.
The mother immediately woke her husband up and he took the newborn baby to the diaper changing room only to realise that the baby was not breathing.
The father then started performing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and shortly after the baby was rushed to Changi General Hospital (CGH) by ambulance.
Baby regained circulation but passed away soon after
At CGH, after the baby regained spontaneous circulation he was transferred to KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital for further treatment.
However, in KKH, the baby boy was found unresponsive with fixed and dilated pupils. There was also no movement or spontaneous breaths while he was placed on the ventilator.
The baby passed away at 2.30 am on June 10, two days after the incident.
A pathologist certified his cause of death as global hypoxia due to suffocation with oxygen deprivation.
Safety checklist for mums from KKH
During SC Ponnampalam’s inquiry, KKH’s quality service manager testified that the hospital often conducts workshops to teach parents and caregivers about infant care.
For instance, mums are taught various techniques like how to pick out signs and symptoms of a sick baby and how to respond accordingly.
KKH also provides a Child Safety Checklist for parents upon discharge which urges them to keep bolsters, pillows, blankets, and plastic bags away from infants and young children.
Apart from that, KKH advises parents to always position their baby on their backs and discouraged the use of a “sarong cable”.
SC Ponnampalam extended her condolences to the family of the baby and called on parents to be “vigilant and observe safe sleeping habits at all times.”