Safe Sleeping – Reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
SIDS is one of those subjects that sometimes we’d rather not talk about. We hope it never happens. It’s painful to think about it, never mind experience it.
So although hard to think about, it is important that parents-to-be and parents know how to reduce the risk. I say reduce the risk as much is still unknown about triggers. However since a public health campaign in 1991 much has been learned.
SIDS is more common in babies under 6 months but can occur in older babies and toddlers.
How can you reduce the risk of SIDS?
#1 Always put your baby to sleep on their back
Back in the 70’s it was common practice and advised by health professionals to put babies to sleep on their front. A doctor named Peter Fleming recognised that too many babies were dying with no known cause. He also recognised that families were unjustly being blamed. During his studies (which didn’t actually look directly at sleep position) he discovered a possible link to sleep position. He pushed for a public health campaign encouraging parents to put their babies to sleep on their back. This campaign was backed by Anne Diamond (whose son died from SIDS) the number of babies dying from SIDS dramatically reduced. This was a staggering breakthrough. In 1989 1545 babies died of SIDS. Now there are around 250 a year.
#2 Feet to foot position
Always put your baby to sleep with their feet to the foot of the cot. Secure loose blankets under the mattress. Blankets should not cover the baby’s face. In this position a baby is less likely to wriggle under the covers and overheat.
#3 Ensure your home is smoke free.
Smoking during pregnancy or anyone smoking around a baby increases the risk of SIDS. If you smoke you should not co-sleep.
#4 Avoid Co-Sleeping when unsafe.
We know this one can prove difficult, especially if breastfeeding and/or you have an unsettled baby. But you shouldn’t co-sleep especially if any drugs or alcohol have been consumed, you are extremely tired or have a premature baby. If you do co-sleep, remove any unnecessary pillows, avoid heavy blankets and super thick duvets. Cover the baby but his/her head. Make sure there are no light cords within arms reach. Still put baby on his/her back. Don’t swaddle. Keep baby lightly dressed. Be sensible.
#5 Baby should sleep in your bedroom in their own cot for the first 6 months
They should have a firm, clean and preferably waterproof mattress. Keep bedding light and breathable. Use natural fabrics such as cotton to avoid overheating.
#6 Breastfeeding is known to reduce the risk of SIDS.
In addition some research has suggested that using a dummy reduces the risk of SIDS. It is however recommended to wait until breastfeeding is established around 4 weeks before introducing a dummy.
#7 The ideal room temperature is 16°C and 20 °C.
It’s important babies do not overheat. Overheating increases the risk of SIDS. You can always buy a room thermometer. The Lullaby Trust sell simple ones for £3.00.
#8 Do not sleep on the sofa with your baby.
This greatly increases the risk of SIDS. SIDS used to be commonly termed as ‘Cot Death’, implying that babies only died in their cots but actually many babies died from SIDS whilst asleep on a sofa or armchair.
#9 Don’t overcrowd the cot with teddies and blankets. Don’t use cot bumpers or pillows.
Cot bumpers can pose a risk as babies begin to move around. They could get entangled. Its best not to use them.
#10 If you use a baby sleeping bag – make sure it is age appropriate, fits well and follow the tog guide for time of year.
#11 When it’s cold outside we wrap up our little bundles into..well bundles.
Remember to take off some layers when you venture back inside. It’s easy for little ones to overheat all wrapped up inside.
#12 Don’t drape blankets over prams
When it’s warm outside, we often venture outside more. Our little ones will take naps in prams. I often see blankets draped over prams in an attempt to block out the sunlight. It also blocks out circulating air, this is what will keep babies cool. So don’t drape over blankets, use specially designed sunshades instead.
Have you suffered a loss from SIDS? If so did you know about CONI?
CONI = Care of Next Infant. This is a health visitor led scheme. It aims to provide parents support and advice before and after the birth of the next baby following a SIDS. Ask your maternity unit to refer you to a local scheme.
LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION AND EVIDENCE