Sleep safety for newborn babies
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), more commonly referred to as cot death, is a terrible phenomenon whereby babies die suddenly (usually while sleeping) for no obvious reason. An explanation is found for less than half of all deaths that occur. Every year, 300 babies die as a result of cot death.
According to research conducted by the Lullaby Trust, the risk is higher in families living in difficult circumstances or for children of smokers. Premature and low birth-weight babies are more at risk, as are baby boys. Most deaths occur before the age of six months.
Research has revealed several factors that have an impact on this kind of infant mortality and there are certain recommendations in place, to do with sleeping, to help reduce the risk of such a tragedy occurring.
Some tips for creating a safe sleeping environment:
- Don’t smoke around babies (or children)
This has been shown to increase the risk of SIDS occurring. If you or anybody else in your household does smoke, preferably do it outside of the house, not in the same room as your baby, and especially not the room she is going to sleep in. Also, avoid visiting smoky places.
- Put baby to sleep on their back
The second is the baby’s sleeping position. Going against earlier advice, it is now accepted that the safest position for your baby to sleep in, is on her back. Sleeping on her front is a position now known to be associated with SIDS. Ensure that her feet are at the bottom of the cot or crib so that she can’t wriggle down under any covers or sheets.
- Ensure the room isn’t too hot
The next factor that influences the possibility of cot death occurring is temperature. Do not let your baby get too hot. This means checking the central heating is not too high and that your baby has the right amount of blankets to keep her warm. Make sure her head is not covered over by blankets (put her feet to the bottom of the cot so she can’t wriggle down under the covers). If your baby is feverish, reduce her covering to help her regulate her body temperature. A comfortable room temperature of 18-22°C is ideal.
- Don’t use cot bumpers
A 2015 study by the Washington University School of Medicine found that cot bumpers were the direct cause of 48 infant deaths between 1985-2012 due to suffocation or strangulation. The latest safety advice is to use a relatively firm mattress in any cot or Moses basket, and not to have any loose bedding, pillows or cot bumpers.
- Be careful if sharing a bed with baby
Parents are usually advised not to share a bed with their baby if either one of them are smokers, have been drinking alcohol, are on drugs or medication, are very tired or if their baby was born prematurely or was small at birth. The baby may also roll out of bed and be injured or become caught between the wall and the bed.
- Parents are also advised never to fall asleep with a baby on an armchair or sofa as there is a risk you could roll over and suffocate your baby.
Research is ongoing in this area and since the start of an awareness campaign in 1991, called Reduce the Risk, cot death rates have fallen by 75% proving that the advice on creating a safe sleeping environment is valid.
For more information and advice, visit lullabytrust.org.uk