Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), sometimes known as “cot death” – is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby. As frightening as it sounds, it is a tragedy that not many new mums know about.
In the UK, more than 200 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly every year. This statistic may sound alarming, but SIDS is rare and the risk of your baby dying from it is low. Most deaths happen during the first 6 months of a baby’s life. Infants born prematurely or with a low birthweight are at greater risk.
What causes SIDS?
The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, but it’s thought to be down to a combination of things. Experts believe SIDS occurs at a particular stage in a baby’s development and that it affects babies vulnerable to certain environmental stresses.
This vulnerability may be caused by being born prematurely or having a low birthweight, or because of other reasons that have not been identified yet.
Environmental stresses could include tobacco smoke, getting tangled in bedding, a minor illness or a breathing obstruction. There’s also an association between co-sleeping (sleeping with your baby on a bed, sofa or chair) and SIDS.
Babies who die of SIDS are thought to have problems in the way they respond to these stresses and how they regulate their heart rate, breathing and temperature.
Who’s At Risk?
- babies who sleep on their stomachs
- premature or low birth weight babies
- babies who become overheated during sleep
- babies who sleep on too soft a surface, or who cribs have soft blankets and bumper pads
- babies who have a sibling who died of SIDS, or whose family history includes failure to thrive
Although the cause of SIDS is not completely understood, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk, such as;
- always place your baby on their back to sleep
- place your baby in the “feet to foot” position – with their feet touching the end of the cot, Moses basket, or pram
- keep your baby’s head uncovered – their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders
- let your baby sleep in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months
- use a mattress that’s firm, flat, waterproof and in good condition
- breastfeed your baby, if you can
To Prevent SIDS Do Not;
- smoke during pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby – both before and after birth
- sleep on a bed, sofa or armchair with your baby
- share a bed with your baby if you or your partner smoke or take drugs, or if you’ve been drinking alcohol
- let your baby get too hot or too cold – at room temperature of 16 C to 20C, with light bedding or a lightweight baby sleeping bag, will provide a comfortable sleeping environment for your baby
We want more mamas to be aware and know about SIDS, even though there’s a very low chance of it happening to your new-born, it’s important and helpful to educate one another. If you’ve been affected by SIDS then visit the NHS website to find ways to get support.
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