One-month-old baby dies after parents find her with vomit residue and foam in mouth

Elena Chong
My Paper 
June 24, 2016

A one-month-old baby who slept with her parents was found unresponsive hours later with some vomit residue on her face and foam in her mouth.

The baby was rushed to Khoo Teck Puat General Hospital but was declared dead soon after.

Yesterday, in the inquest into the death, State Coroner Marvin Bay could not pinpoint exactly why the New Year's Day tragedy happened.

But he urged parents to be mindful of the possible hazards when sharing their bed with their young ones.

To cut out the risk of accidental smothering, he said infants should be placed in cots.

"While the exact circumstances of the baby's sad demise cannot be clinically ascertained, there are real potential hazards inherent to the practice of very young infants sharing their beds with one or both parents, or other caregivers, which parents should be mindful of,'' he said.

Investigations showed that at about 8am on Jan 1, the baby's mother, a 31-year-old housewife, took the crying child from her cot to her bed to breastfeed her.

The baby did not burp afterwards despite the mother's efforts. Burping is one way parents can help their baby get rid of gas that gets trapped in the gastrointestinal system and needs to be released.

At about noon, the 33-year-old self-employed father woke up to prepare for Friday prayers. He did not notice anything amiss.

When he was on his way out, he woke his wife to say he was leaving. His wife saw that the bed area where the baby was was wet.

On checking, her husband realised that there was some residue of vomit on the baby's face, and foam in and around her mouth. She was no longer breathing, and despite his attempts to rouse her, she remained unresponsive.

He shouted for his wife to call for help as he tried to resuscitate the child.

A forensic pathologist could not ascertain the cause of death.

In her report, pathologist Belinda Lee stated that as the baby was co-sleeping with her parents, one could not rule out she had been accidentally suffocated by a pillow, bed sheet or a body part of a parent.

But it was also not possible to rule out that her death was related to sudden death infant syndrome. This affects children below a year in age, and usually occurs during sleep.

Records from KK Women's and Children's Hospital revealed the baby was premature and delivered after an emergency caesarean section at 36 weeks, but was born healthy.

The parents, who have three other children, did not attend the inquest.

Dr Janice Wong, a paediatrician at Thomson Paediatric Centre, said parents are advised not to sleep with their baby, to avoid the risk of rolling onto the baby and possibly causing the infant to suffocate.

Even when babies are put in cots, safety measures have to be taken. Dr Wong said the cot has to have no pillows or stuffed toys in it, and blankets have to be tucked into the cot tightly so it would not cover the baby's face.


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