Reducing the risk of cot death

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), known as ‘cot death’ or ‘crib death’, is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby for no obvious reason.  It usually occurs under the age of one year with the peak occurring when the infant is at two to four months of age.

This is a critical period because their ability to arouse from sleep is not yet matured.

The causes are unknown and there is nothing that guarantees its prevention.  However there are ways in which parents can vastly reduce the risks and here are a few guidelines:

  • Always place your baby on its back to sleep. A baby loses most of its heat through the head, chest and abdomen so lying on its back allows the body to control the temperature.
  • Do not smoke and even more so during pregnancy. The risk of SIDS to smokers is twice that for babies born to non-smokers.
  • Breastfeed – stats show that cot death rate is lower in breastfed babies.
  • Temperature control is vital. Do not let your baby get too hot.  Avoid tucking in bedding – this will assist them to kick it off.  If your baby has a fever, do not increase clothing or blankets – reducing them allows your baby to lose the heat.
  • If your baby is unwell, see a doctor. High temperatures and infection in babies over 10 weeks old increase the risk of cot death.
  • A firm sleeping mattress to avoid sagging.

Some further interesting factors such as:

  • SIDS rates decrease with increasing maternal age, with teenage mothers at greatest risk.
  • The use of dummies has also recently been shown to reduce the risk.
  • SIDS appears to be more prevalent in boys.
  • Although SIDS is known as cot death, it can occur outside of the cot. It is so named as it is related to sleep.
  • Such incidences occur most often during sleep and usually between 10pm to 10am.
  • Two-thirds of cot deaths occur in winter.
  • The earlier a baby is born, the higher his risk of SIDS. Likewise, the lower his birth weight, the higher the risk.
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