Co-sleeping with your baby isn’t totally safe. Here’s what mothers should know. By Elena Chong & Trina Anne Khoo
Photo: Anna Bizon / 123rf.com
In Singapore earlier this 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.
“While the exact circumstances of the baby’s sad demise cannot be clinically ascertained, there are real potential hazards inherent in very young infants sharing their beds with one or both parents, or caregivers, which parents should be mindful of,” he said.
A forensic pathologist could not ascertain the cause of death. In her report, pathologist Belinda Lee stated that since the baby was co-sleeping with her parents, it is not possible to 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 (Sids). This affects children below a year in age, and usually occurs during sleep. The exact cause of Sids is unknown.
Speaking to The Straits Times, 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 baby should be sleeping. If parents want to monitor their baby, get a monitor.”
She highlighted a recent 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.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline ‘Open verdict on death of baby girl who slept with parents’.