What every parent should know about cot deaths and safe sleeping
What is Cot Death?
Cot Death (SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is described as the sudden and unexpected death of an apparently healthy infant form 1 month to 1 year of age which remains unexplained after post mortem and death scene investigations and review of medical history.
Cot Death remains the most common cause of death in the age group one month to one year, claiming more lives that car accidents, leukaemia, cancers and meningitis combined.
SIDS is a worldwide phenomenon that affects families of all ethnic , social and economic backgrounds. While the exact cause of death is still unknown, extensive research has identified key risk factors and guidelines that parents and caregivers can do to significantly reduce the risk of Cot Death and protect their baby.
1. No Smoking during and after pregnancy
2. Position baby to sleep on their backs from birth
3. Ensure a safe sleeping environment
4. Do not overheat baby
5. Use a dummy for sleep time
6. If baby is unwell seek medical advice promptly
It is important that you educate everyone who cares for your baby about these important safety tips.
1. Do not smoke during or after pregnancy
Smoking during pregnancy affects the health of you and your baby and puts you at increased risk of the following:
– increases the risk of Cot Death by 3 times
– increases the chance of miscarriage and stillbirths
– 6 times more likely to have an eptopic pregnancy
– doubles the risk of an unhealthy birth weight baby
– increases the risk of baby developing asthma and other respiratory conditions
– It is a fact that cigarette smoke harms babies during pregnancy
When you smoke during pregnancy, you reduce the oxygen made available to your unborn baby. The nicotine increase baby’s heart rate and reduces the blood flow through the umbilical cord. Poisonous harmful chemical substances enter your baby’s blood stream and affect your baby’s growth.
The risk of Cot Death doubles further is baby continues to be exposed to cigarette smoke after birth.
If you smoke and breastfeed, your baby will continue to be exposed to the nicotine and poisonous chemicals in cigarettes as these will be present in your breast milk. Smoking moms also tend to produce less milk and therefore their ability to successfully breastfeed baby is reduced.
– do not let anyone smoke around your baby or be in a room where smokers have recently smoked
– Try keep your home and car smoke-free
– Do not put baby in bed with you if you or your partner are smokers.
2. Back sleeping
One of the best things you can do to help reduce the risk of Cot Death is to place your baby on their back every time you put them down to sleep. Side sleeping and tummy sleeping are not safe alternatives.
Almost all babies will sleep comfortably on their backs if they are placed in that position form the very first day. Doctors agree that babies are also less likely to choke on their backs as their spit-up flows down and away from their face. If your baby has a medical problem that requires a different sleeping position, your Dr or nurse will advise you on the preferred position.
Look out for the many sleep positioner’s available to encourage and support back sleeping.
With the introduction of back sleeping, a large number of babies are now developing abnormal head shapes with flat spots (plagiocephaly). These flat spots are almost always temporary and usually resolve within in the first year. To help prevent these flat spots.
– Alternate the direction that baby’s head faces each time your put baby to sleep
– Don’t let your baby spend too much time in car seats, bouncers, swings or lying on their back on the floor when awake
– Tummy time: Place baby on their tummy for a few minutes every day to help strengthen their neck and back muscles.
3. Ensure a safe sleeping environment
Babies spend the greater part of their first 12 months sleeping. It is therefore important that their sleeping environment is safe and comfortable.
The safest place for your baby to sleep in on their own in a crib/cot placed next to your bed. This is recommended for at least the first 6 months. Adult beds are not safe for sleeping babies. Breastfeeding, nursing and bonding with your baby in your bed is encouraged, but place baby down to sleep in their own crib. Adults , siblings, pets, duvets, pillows could smother baby and put them at risk.
Cots with a drop down side are not recommended for safety reasons, the sides should be secured with no moveable parts.
If you have a cradle or cot that rocks make sure that you secure the locking pin to ensure that it cannot move when you are not there to supervise.
Remove all loose bedding, pillows, duvets, soft toys and other soft items from your baby’s sleep area.
A wearable sleep sac or swaddling wrap is preferable to blankets and will keep baby warm and safe.
Use a firm ,clean mattress with fitted sheet that is the correct size for the cot. There should be no more than 25mm (two fingers) gap between the mattress and the sides of the cot.
Latest research from the UK has shown that many cot deaths may be due to the bacteria that breed in babies mattresses. It is therefore recommended that you use a new mattress for each new baby.
Look for the new 3in1 Healthtex mattresses, Healthtex offers a specialised cover which prevents Bacteria and Dustmites from breeding in the foam of the mattress.
4. Overheating is a significant risk factor in cot deaths.
To check baby’s body temperature, touch the sides of baby’s neck, tummy or back with the back of your hand. It is normal for baby’s hands and feet to feel cool as their circulation to the extremities is usually poor.
– Be careful not to overheat your baby by using too much clothing or bedding
– The ideal room temperature is 18-21’C ( a simple wall thermometer will give you peace of mind)
– Never leave baby sleeping next to a heater or in the direct sunlight
– Never use an electric blanket or hot water bottle in baby’s cot
– Keep baby’s nursery well ventilated
New research shows that giving your baby a pacifier every time you put him/her to sleep can greatly reduce of risk of SIDS. For breastfed babies, delay the use of a dummy until at least one month to ensure establishment of breast feeding.
6. If your baby is unwell, seek medical advice promptly
– Maintain good prenatal care for you and your unborn baby
– Take baby to attend all scheduled clinic visits and vaccinations
– Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS
For more information www.fsids.co.uk