What is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and how can you reduce the risk? | Metro News

2022-05-20 02:45:18 By : Ms. Joyce Zhong


The death of a baby is devastating for the whole family and has a lasting impact on parents, siblings and extended friends and family.

The sadness of losing a healthy baby where no apparent reason can be found is terrifying for parents and the term SIDS is used to describe the sudden death of an infant.

Around 200 babies die every year of SIDS in the UK, often known as ‘cot death’ and mostly happens between the ages of one to four months, up to six months old.

Although it sounds alarming, cot death is very uncommon and the unexplained mortality rate is approximately 1 in 3000 live births.

While there are still many unknowns, experts have discovered ways to reduce the risk and help prevent the occurrence of SIDS.

The NHS website recommends parents let babies sleep on their back in the cot and not on their side or front in infancy. It is easy to think this may be just for the nighttime but it is recommended for all sleeping, including naps or in their pram.

Mattresses should be firm, flat and waterproof and used for both day and nighttime sleep. When purchasing one it is also best to check whether it complies with the British Standards Safety which specifies safety requirements and test methods.

They also do not recommend co-sleeping with a baby, and even though you’re desperately tired avoid sleeping with your baby in a bed, sofa or chair with them.

Adult bedding can be much thicker than what is needed for a baby and the NHS advises using a lightweight sleeping bag or blanket. There is also the risk that you could roll over and endanger the baby by getting stuck in between the wall or even suffocating.

Once your baby is old enough to start turning or rolling, there is no need to worry if they do this while in their cot.

It is recommended to sleep with your baby in your bedroom for at least the first six months and do lots of tummy time in the day to strengthen their head and neck.

Never position a cot next to a radiator, in direct sunlight or near windows where cords, blinds or curtains can be hazardous to them.

Babies will naturally move their arms and legs when sleeping so it is important to use suitable bedding that won’t become trapped over their face or head.

The NHS states that the ‘foot to feet’ method is best used in a cot, pram or Moses basket. The baby’s feet can touch the bottom edge of their sleeping area leaving plenty of headroom above them.

If you are using covers, then a lightweight blanket or baby sleeping bag is the safest bedding.

Blankets should be tucked under their arms and not above their shoulders while sleeping bag poppers should always be firmly secure. Bottom sheets should be tucked at each corner.

It might be tempting but avoid putting soft toys next to the baby when they are sleeping.

Experts have discovered a link between infants overheating and SIDS, therefore it is advised to make sure your baby’s sleeping environment is at a regulating temperature between 16 to 20C.

Radiators are not needed for babies in the nighttime and they can also become too hot with excessive layers of clothing or bedding.

The NHS suggests the best way to check is by feeling their tummy. If they are sweating or hot to the touch then it is best to swiftly remove a blanket or layer of clothing.

In some temperatures, a baby may only need a sheet to sleep under and even in winter they do not need too many blankets.

Many links have been reported that environmental stresses can have an impact on babies and cause SIDS.

Environmental stresses include smoking, getting trapped in bedding, a minor illness or anything that may obstruct easy breathing for them.

It’s also recommended to avoid using cot bumpers to reduce the risk of suffocation and trapping your child.

When the weather gets warmer, they are a number of precautions to take when out and about with your baby.

The Lullaby Trust recommends removing hats or extra clothing when entering indoors, cars, buses or trains, particularly as they may be warmer inside with no air conditioning.

When walking with your baby in the pram do not cover with blankets or muslin cloths as it is important to keep air circulating, especially if they are sleeping in their pram. 

A cover can also create a barrier between parent and baby so you are less likely to see if something is wrong or they are having trouble breathing.

Baby carriers are a popular choice for travelling but the NHS has curated a firm guide for keeping babies safe when wearing one.

You should never cover the baby’s head and use the TICKS advice when using a baby carrier or sling. This consists of Tight, In view, Close enough to kiss, Keep their chin off their chest and Supported back.

It is also paramount that they do not become too hot and their airway is always clear.

It is very common for babies to fall asleep when travelling, particularly with the lulling movement of the car. It is perfectly safe for babies to sleep in car seats but they should be in sight of an adult at all times.

If baby slumps forward then stop the car and take them out of the seat to check them before continuing your journey. Throughout the journey make sure they are not overheating and check regularly in a mirror or have an adult sit beside them.

Many car seat manufacturers suggest that a maximum travel time with a baby should be two hours and any longer take a break and bring them out of their seat. When purchasing a car seat, it is also advised to keep the British Safety Standards in mind.

While the thought of SIDS can be alarming, there are many online sites to find extensive information. The NHS has clear guidance on safer sleep and how to reduce the risk. The Lullaby Trust also has lots of information for parents including bereavement support, product guides, safer sleep advice, statistics and educational videos.

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