3-month-old baby dies while being fed by father who was playing with his phone

Amir Hussain
The Straits Times
12 July 2016

A three-month-old baby died in October last year, just five weeks after she was discharged from hospital for a broken skull, a coroner's inquiry heard on Tuesday (July 12).

Reyhana Qailah Mohamad Shiddiq's parents Nurraishah Mahzan, 31, and Mohamed Shiddiq Sazali, 27, had signed a safety undertaking with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) before taking her home on Sept 9, 2015.

But on Oct 12, Reyhana became unresponsive while Mr Shiddiq was trying to feed her milk with one hand, while playing a game on his mobile phone.

Efforts to resuscitate the infant were unsuccessful.

A forensic pathologist found three of her ribs were broken about one to two weeks before her death.

Police investigator Tony Won told the inquiry: "Although the cause of death cannot be ascertained... smothering or suffocation is unaccompanied by visible injuries or permanent mark, but choking on milk may also be a possible cause of death."

He said Reyhana's rib fractures also remain unexplained.

On Tuesday, he told the court Reyhana was born normally on June 28 last year. On Aug 9, she was taken to hospital for blood in her vomit. She was discharged after eight hours, against medical advice, as her mother wanted her home.

On Aug 26, Ms Nurraishah found that Reyhana was crying continuously. At KK Women's and Children's Hospital later, she learnt that the baby had a fractured skull. The hospital told the police and MSF of the case.

A child protection officer suggested that Reyhana be supervised by at least two adults, if she was under the family's care.

Reyhana returned home from the hospital on Sept 9.

On Oct 12, Ms Nurraishah left home at about 10.20am for a drug supervision test, having fed and burped her baby, who drank about half of the milk in her bottle.

She passed Reyhana to Mr Shiddiq and told him to burp her properly.

He later fed the infant seated with his legs crossed. He placed her head on his right hand, with her legs stretched out on his lap, and held her milk bottle with his left hand. But she did not want to drink and cried for about two minutes before being unresponsive.

He put her on the bed and patted her back.

Ms Nurraishah's father, Mr Mahzan Ahmad, 57, returned home and found her not breathing, but with a pulse. He started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions.

Ms Nurraishah got a text message from Mr Shiddiq and took a taxi home, where she did CPR until police and paramedics arrived.

After Reyhana's death, police investigators did a lie-detector test on Ms Nurraishah, Mr Shiddiq and Mr Mahzan, Inspector Won said.

Mr Shiddiq failed the test and admitted dropping the baby on Aug 26. He was carrying her at the void deck of a HDB block while playing with his mobile phone, when he saw her pacifier on the ground and tried to pick it up. She fell and the back of her head hit the ground.

The inquiry will resume at a later date.

The Straits Times

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