SINGAPORE: A seven-month-old baby was found dead in the master bedroom after getting trapped in the gap between her mattress and the bed rail, a coroner’s inquiry found on Friday (Oct 4).
The baby girl was unresponsive when found by her father in the morning, and was pronounced dead on Jan 15 at her residence in Jurong, where she lived with her parents.
According to the coroner’s inquiry, the baby, who was born in June last year, slept in a bedroom alone since December. The intention was to allow her to “transition to the next stage of her development”.
At the time, both parents were unwell and they did not want to infect their daughter, the inquiry found.
On the night of Jan 14, the baby’s mother nursed her as usual before the child fell asleep at about 9pm. The child’s mother said the baby was placed on a blanket in the middle of the mattress when she was last patted to sleep.
At about 11pm, the baby’s father entered the room to adjust the air-conditioner settings.
“He stated that the room was dark and (the baby) was not making any noise. Both parents stated that they did not hear (the baby) make any noise throughout the night," court documents said.
In the morning at about 7am, the child’s father found the baby’s body "almost fully trapped in the gap" between the mattress and the padded bed rail at the foot of the bed. The baby’s face was turned towards the padded bed rail.
An autopsy performed by Dr Chan Shijia, consultant forensic pathologist with the Forensic Medicine Division of the Health Sciences Authority, certified the cause of death as “consistent with suffocation”.
Dr Chan added that a baby of seven months would usually be able to roll around on the bed, but would have been unable to crawl or climb effectively.
“Hence, should the baby accidentally roll into a crevice, she would be unlikely to be able to climb out of it.”
According to the child’s mother, the baby was able to turn over on her own, and was just learning to sit up. She was also able to lift her head and chest up when lying in a prone position.
This was not the first time the baby had gotten stuck in the gap, the coroner’s inquiry found.
A few weeks before her death, both parents heard the baby crying in the middle of the night and found her trapped in the same part of the bed, the father said.
State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam ruled the death an "unfortunate misadventure" and said there was no basis to suspect foul play.
She noted that experts involved in infant care emphasise three recommendations for safe sleep: Firstly, infants should not sleep in the same bed as others, but not necessarily in a different room either.
Secondly, the baby should be put to sleep on his or her back as it was found to be the safest sleeping position. Lastly, an infant’s crib should be well-built and free of loose bedding, pillows and toys, which could cause entrapment or suffocation.