It was recently reported that a four-month-old baby girl died of asphyxiation after falling into a gap between the bed and the wall. She usually slept beside her mother on a full-sized bed. Forensic pathologists believed that the girl had somehow become trapped in the recess in a head-down position for some time, reported The Straits Times. The incident happened on Dec 20, 2021.

In his findings dated April 3, 2023, State Coroner Adam Nakhoda said that according to pathologists, this type of death resulting from an unusual position of the body over an extended period of time is known as positional asphyxia. This can block the airways and cause the person to be unable to breathe. He ruled Ailynn’s death a misadventure, and “strongly” recommended that parents of infants adhere to safe sleep practices, which would greatly reduce the incidence of infants dying from positional asphyxia.

On Jun 20, 2017, a 36-day-old baby died in Singapore after co-sleeping with her parents the night before. Lianhe Wanbao reported that the infant’s parents decided to let her sleep in their bed as they believed it would be easier to feed her. According to the report, the infant’s father noticed something was wrong in the morning and discovered that she had stopped breathing. The baby’s parents then took her to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital at around 9am. Police said they were informed that an infant was pronounced dead at the hospital at around 10.16am.

In January of the same year, a one-month-old baby who slept with her parents was found unresponsive with 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.

In the inquest into the child’s death, State Coroner Marvin Bay could not pinpoint exactly why the tragedy happened, but he urged parents to be mindful of the possible hazards of sharing their bed with their young ones. To cut the risk of accidental smothering, he said infants should be placed in their own cots.

Speaking to The Straits Times in an earlier report, Dr Janice Wong, a paediatrician at Thomson Paediatric Centre said:

  • Parents are always advised not to sleep with their baby, who should be placed in a cot. This is 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.
  • Have no pillows or stuffed toys in the cot.
  • Blankets must be tucked in tightly so they will not cover baby’s face.

Dr Wong acknowledged parents may sleep with their baby to make breastfeeding more convenient. Parents also worry about leaving babies on their own at night.

But she stressed: “The cot is where the baby should be sleeping. If parents want to monitor their baby, get a monitor.”

She highlighted a case she attended in which a two-week old baby fell off the bed and suffered a head fracture.

“There is absolutely no advantage for the baby co-sleeping with parents, the advantage is for the parent – they have ease of care.”

Convenience should never be a factor for parents to co-sleep with their baby, she added.

Text: Abigail Ng, Elena Chong & Trina Anne Khoo/ Straits Times. Additional text: Michelle Lee