When we’re expecting a baby, starting or growing a family, we plan and prepare for the best things and happy times ahead.
It’s so hard to listen to sad stories and cases where it goes wrong and when babies die suddenly. But this is important to talk about.
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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Sadly more than 150 babies unexpectedly died of SIDS in the UK in 2020. SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome – also called crib death or cot death) is extremely rare, but absolutely devastating.
The good news is that over the years we have seen huge progress in reducing death rates by doing small things.
It’s more common in the first six months of a child’s life (88% of cases) and usually occurs when the child is sleeping.
However, thankfully the death rates are falling. Since the ‘back to sleep’ campaign was launched (babies placed on their back rather than on their fronts in their sleep space) the death rate has fallen by 82%, but we still don’t know what really causes it.
High risk of SIDS
Some babies are at a higher risk, such as those with a low-birth weight or born prematurely. However, I’m sure you’ll agree that even if your own baby isn’t in these high risk groups you’ll be keen to follow safer sleep advice.
Research has shown there are ways to decrease the chances of SIDS and therefore safe sleep guidelines have been drawn up and recommended.
As a sleep specialist I am absolutely dedicated to following and promoting safe sleep guidelines and want to share advice with you here. The following advice is adapted from NHS.UK.
16 tips for safe sleep and to lower the risk of SIDS
- Sleeping position: Always place your baby on their back to sleep (until baby rolls easily both back to front and front to back).
- Baby should sleep flat (unless otherwise discussed with a medical professional).
- When your baby falls asleep place them in the “feet to foot” position – with their feet touching the end of the cot, moses basket, or pram.
- Keep baby’s head uncovered.
- Avoid any loose bedding or too much bedding. Blankets should be tucked in no higher than shoulder level and never near your baby’s face.
- Weighted blankets of sleeping bags are not deemed safe.
- Keep the cot clear. Soft toys should be avoided until they’re older. Avoid cot bumpers.
- Think about where your baby sleeps. let your baby sleep in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months.
- Do not use a soft mattress. Use a crib mattress that’s firm, flat, waterproof and in good condition.
- Breastfeed your baby if you can. This helps reduce the risk of sids.
- Do not smoke during pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby – both before and after birth.
- Bedsharing: do not sleep on a bed, sofa or armchair with your baby. If you’d like to co-sleep, there’s separate advice on co sleeping and keeping a safe sleep environment and reducing baby’s risk of SIDS.
- Do not sleep in the same bed with your baby if you or your partner smoke or take drugs, or if you’ve been drinking alcohol.
- Do not let your baby get too hot or too cold – a room temperature of 16C to 20C is ideal with light bedding or a lightweight baby sleeping bag.
- Don’t overwrap your baby and use the right TOG sleep sack for the temperature in your baby’s room. Check your baby’s neck to ensure they’re not getting too hot.
- Do not use a hot water bottle in bed with your baby.
Question and Answer
Q. What’s the safest way for a baby to sleep?
A. On their back with their feet at the end of their crib. Ideally you will be room sharing for the first 6 months but they will have their own sleep space with a firm, flat mattress.
Q. What age is SIDS most common?
A. The most vulnerable age is up to 3 months of age, but it’s best to follow the advice and guidance above until they turn 1.
Q. I use a baby nest. Is this safe for sleep?
A. Sadly not. They should only be used when baby is supervised. e.g in the day for a nap when you are with them.
Q. Can I co-sleep with my baby?
A. Many families choose to co sleep and can prepare their sleep environment to provide the best opportunity for baby to sleep safely. However, many families end up co-sleeping when parents are sleep deprived and bring baby into bed without any prior planning.
If there’s a possibility you’ll bring baby into the adult bed at night (e.g. after or during a feed) and bed sharing is more reactive rather than planned then we need to think about keeping your sleeping baby safe. Be honest, if they won’t return to their own bassinet or own cot then read these guidelines for co-sleeping safely.
Also recommend you take a look at more excellent advice and guidance to keep your baby safe on the Lullaby Trust website.
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