I don’t know about you, but when my children were born, I felt over whelmed with the advice available to me as a new Mum about how to do everything right. It made no difference that I was a midwife; I had sailed through the pregnancies and births but now was presented with a newborn baby.
Sleep was a key theme in those first few weeks (or the lack of) and I was never sure whether my babies slept too much or too little or in my case, I definitely was NOT getting enough of the stuff. But there was one area of the sleep subject I knew was really important, vital in fact for peace of mind. How to make sure my baby was asleep safely by reducing the risk of Cot Death. A horrible subject for any new Mum to have to think about but 300 babies a year are still dying unexpectedly and I wanted to find out why? Judith Howard who works for the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death (FSID) tells me more about Cot Death and what advice pregnant women and new parents need to know about how to reduce the risks.
1.What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? (SIDS)
SIDS or cot death is the sudden and unexpected death of a healthy baby for no obvious reasons. Numbers (which stood at 2000 a year ) have dropped by 65% since the successful back to sleep campaign in 1991. It is now extremely rare compared with live births but still claims 300 deaths every year which is shocking when we at FSID know that those numbers could be reduced by at least 100 if mothers did not smoke and even more so if all parents and full time carers followed the Reduce the Risk advice.
2.What us your role at FSID?
My role at FSID is actually 2 fold. I am a Helpline advisor one day a week, based at Head Office in London, speaking to both bereaved families and professionals as well as answering calls from anyone who wants advice on how to reduce the risks of SIDs. I also train professionals in the whole of the SE of the UK on the latest research backed advice. A vast region covering Kent, Sussex, Surrey. Berkshire, Hampshire and the Channel Islands!
The current reduce the risk advice is the following:
- Cut out smoking in pregnancy
- Place the baby back to sleep feet to foot of crib (with bedding tucked in firmly)
- Don’t let the baby get too hot or allow their head to be covered ( also no hats to be worn indoors )
- NEVER sleep with a baby at any time on a sofa or in an armchair
- Breastfeed your baby
- The safest place for a baby to sleep is in the same ROOM as the the parent for the first 6 months
- Using a dummy at all sleep times in 24 hours reduces the risk of SIDS
Published research papers around the world all show that a baby who is offered a dummy (once breast feeding is established) at all points of sleep in 24 hours more than halves the risk of SIDS. Do not replace a dummy in a sleeping baby’s mouth if it has been spat out. Remove the dummy completely from 6 months and by 12 months.
The risks of SIDS are particularly increased if either parent:
- Smokes ( wherever that may be even outdoors)
- Has recently drunk alcohol
- Taken prescribed or recreational drugs
- If the baby was born pre 35 weeks and or weighs less than 2.5kg
- If the parent is very tired ( particularly the mother! )
- Sleep a baby on it’s back feet to foot
- Do not smoke anywhere if you have a baby
- Share a room but not a bed with your baby for the first 6 month