SINGAPORE — The death of a seven-month-old baby girl who suffocated after being trapped between her mattress and a padded bed rail earlier this year was ruled to be an unfortunate misadventure by a State Coroner.
Citing a forensic pathologist’s testimony in findings delivered on 4 October (Friday), State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam said that while a baby of the same age can usually roll around on the bed, he or she might not be able to crawl or climb effectively.
“Hence, should the baby accidentally roll into a crevice, it is unlikely that she would be able to climb out of it,” noted the SC.
Just a few weeks before the baby died on 15 January this year, she had been trapped in the same 8cm gap and had alerted her parents to her distress by crying.
Slept alone in one room
The baby was born on 7 June last year without any health issues. From December, the baby began sleeping in a bedroom alone, as part of her parents’ plans for her to transition into the next stage of her development. Both parents were also ill and did not want to infect their daughter by sharing a room with her.
The father said that his daughter began using the new bed with the padded bed rail, which was 180cm long and 75cm high, at around the same time.
On 14 January this year, after being breastfed, the baby fell asleep at around 9pm. She was placed on a blanket in the middle of the mattress.
Two hours later, her father went into her room to adjust the air-conditioner settings but did not notice anything amiss. The room was dark and the baby was silent, the father noted. Both parents did not hear the baby make any noise throughout the night.
Cause of death
At around 7am the next morning, the father went into the room and found the baby’s body almost fully trapped in the gap between her mattress and the padded bed rail. Her face was turned towards the bed rail. As the baby was unresponsive, the father immediately called for police assistance.
Her cause of death was certified to be consistent with suffocation, likely because she was unable to breathe due to an obstruction to her nose and mouth.
The baby’s mother testified that her daughter was able to turn over on her own and was just learning to sit up. She was also able to lift her head when lying on her stomach.
In delivering her findings, the SC said that paediatricians regularly emphasise three points to safe sleep for babies. A baby should not share the same bed as others to minimise the risk of suffocation from a larger person rolling over. A baby should also always be put to sleep on its back. The crib should be free of loose bedding, pillows and toys, which could trap the baby.
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