The case of the three-week-old baby that died in sleep shortly after being cradled by his confinement nanny has come to its conclusion.
Despite being the last person to hold the child, no evidence was found that suggested foul play.
According to Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam on Thursday (28 October), the cause of the baby boy’s death could not be ascertained.
Confinement Nanny Hired To Look After Newborn Baby
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In the inquiry findings of Ms Kamala, it was noted that the baby was born healthy in October last year. The child had no known medical conditions apart from neonatal jaundice and a hoarse voice. This was due to an acid reflux a few days before his death.
Madam Sien Yem Leng, 57, was hired by the baby’s parents as his confinement nanny. She reportedly did not have formal training. But she had worked as a nanny for almost 20 years.
Mdm Sien gained her experience from looking after her younger siblings. Her previous job also involved working with children.
While working for the family, Mdm Sien occupied and slept in the same room as the baby. A portable camera was set up in this room to monitor the baby.
Baby Dies In Sleep After Being Cradled In Arms Of Confinement Nanny
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At about 1am on November 19 2020, Mdm Sien fed the baby. Afterwards, the infant made some noises that Mdm Sien said indicated that he may be in discomfort.
According to findings, the boy had been uncomfortable throughout the night as he continued to make such noises. He also seemed to be crying and fidgeting in his cot. Due to this, Mdm Sien carried him several times in different positions to get to fall asleep.
The baby’s mother woke up at around 4.15am and went into his room. It was here that she found her son asleep in Msm Sien’s arms. She says her baby was “facing directly” into the nanny’s chest.
In her own account, Mdm Sien says that the right side of the baby’s face was on her shoulder area and not buried into her chest or shoulders. She also explained that she would turn his head to face away from her shoulders whenever she held him in this position.
The mother added that a yellow cloth was on her son’s face when Mdm Sien carried him to the cot. This cloth was placed on Mdm Sien’s chest and was used as a barrier between the nanny and baby for hygiene purposes.
She further shared that Mdm Sien removed the cloth after she placed the baby in the cot. The confinement nanny then left the room to wash the breast pump accessories.
It was when she left, that the boy’s mother noticed that the left side of his face appeared darker. She carried him out of the cot and called out to him, but the baby was unresponsive.
The baby’s father rushed to the infant’s room after hearing his wife’s shots. He saw his wife trying to wake their son up and discovered that their baby’s body was cold to the touch.
Baby Dies In Sleep: Cause Of Death Of Baby Boy Was Concluded Unascertained
After the baby’s parents took him to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKWCH), doctors found the infant to be pulseless with no signs of life. The child was pronounced dead at 5.18am.
In her findings Ms Kamala stated that she was constrained to record an open verdict on the case. This is because forensics experts could not determine whether the baby died due to suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome.
It was concluded in an autopsy by forensic pathologist Associate Professor Teo Eng Swee from the Health Sciences Authority that the baby’s cause of death was “unascertained.” Although, asphyxia and sudden infant death syndrome could not be ruled out.
It was also noted that according to the nanny’s previous statement, there was no obvious information that the infant was facing or burying into her chest or shoulder area.
Assoc Prof Teo added that it was possible the baby’s nose and mouth were obstructed by the yellow cloth placed on the Mdm Sien’s chest. But there was still no definitive objective autopsy evidence for this.
They could also find no evidence of any imprint marks or injuries on the baby’s face.
Image source: iStock
ABCs Of Safe Sleep To Ensure No Harm Comes To Your Child
“We are once again confronted with a case involving poor sleep practices which may have led to infant death,” writes coroner Kamala in her report as per CNA.
She adds, “The cases before this Court have shown that an infant who falls asleep in a prone position is more likely to fall victim to accidental suffocation. Paediatricians and those involved in infant care regularly emphasise the importance of baby sleeping on its back.”
With this, the coroner listed the ABCs of safe sleep that parents should keep in mind:
- Alone: Babies should not sleep in the same bed as others, not even parents.
- Back: The baby should always be put to sleep on their backs.
- Crib: A baby’s crib should be well-built and free of loose bedding, pillows and toys.
She also cautioned parents and caregivers that fatigue can set in while caring for your little one through the night.
She advised not to cradle a baby in the arms for long periods of time to avoid the risk of them falling asleep in an unsafe sleep position if you ever happen to doze off.
“In cases where the baby is unable to settle, caregivers must adopt other strategies or hand over to another adult than risk baby falling asleep prone,” noted Ms Kamala.
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