This week is “Safer Sleeping Week” so I wanted to share some information on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or you may be more familiar with the term “Cot Death”.
On average every month in the UK 22 babies die as a result of SIDS and the reason we don’t refer to this condition as Cot Death anymore is because approximately 1/6 of those babies will have been found sleeping with an adult on a sofa rather than in a cot.
Firstly the scientists still don’t know what causes SIDS, but what they have done is look at the cases of the babies who have died and reviewed the circumstances around each one. From this they have found some common factors and therefore have drawn the conclusion that if we can avoid these factors we will reduce the risks of it happening and so the advice that you are given from Health Professionals is based on these findings and the numbers of SIDS cases have reduced dramatically since this advice was introduced.
I want to focus on a couple of areas of advice in my blog:
Young babies can’t regulate their temperature as well as adults because they can’t remove their own clothes or covers or change position if they feel too hot and there is evidence to suggest that overheating may have a link to SIDS. A lot of the safe sleeping advice with regards to how you place your baby in their cot is coming from the angle of reducing the risk of your baby overheating.
Here are some points to think about:
- Babies give a lot of heat off from their head – this is why their heads should be uncovered when asleep – no hats, no cuddly toys around their heads, no cot bumpers, no swaddle fabric around the head, no bedding that can move up over the baby’s head. Anything covering the baby’s head or placed against it will act as insulation and trap the baby’s own body heat – causing the baby to get too hot. This is also the reason not to use soft sleeping surfaces such as laying your baby on a pillow/beanbag/or baby nest type product. Imagine if you slept on one of these – wouldn’t you feel warm?
- Babies also give off a lot of heat from their chests – this is where you’re advised to feel them to judge their temperature (hands & feet always feel cooler). Now think back to when you felt cold in bed – what position did you adopt to try to warm up? You would have turned onto your side and curled up in the fetal position and it would have worked – because you’d be trapping your own body heat in this position. So doesn’t this make sense as to why it would reduce the risk of SIDS to place your baby on their back in the cot rather than on their sides or even worse their front?
- The recommended room temperature for a baby in the UK is between 16-20 degrees C and for a lot of homes this can feel cooler than what you may be used to; so a room thermometer is a vital piece of equipment for new parents. It’s important that even if it’s freezing cold outside you should still dress your baby & apply bedding according the temperature of the room that the baby is sleeping in. Keep an eye on your heating overnight to make sure the room isn’t getting too hot and remember that if you fold a blanket in half to help it fit the cot it will count as two layers of blankets.
This subject of using of a dummy particularly with a breastfeeding baby can be a “hot potato”! There are various opinions on this subject and people can feel very strongly one way or another. I’m not going to tell you what to do but instead just give you the facts and some food for thought so you can make up your own mind.
- As a result of research scientists believe that using a dummy consistently as part of your baby’s general sleep routine is associated with a lower risk of SIDS, they’re not really sure why it helps to reduce the risk but there’s enough evidence for them to draw this conclusion.
- One opinion is that a dummy will cause nipple/teat confusion for a breastfeeding baby yet interestingly where this relationship was studied they found that the dummy use was more likely to be as a consequence of breastfeeding difficulties rather than a cause of them. Whilst other research agrees that confusion is not the case if the dummy is introduced after the first week of life.
- Another opinion is that dummies effect the formation/positioning of the teeth however the advice is to gently withdraw the dummy between the ages of 6-12 months to avoid any potential adverse effects such as ear infections or dental issues because these type of issues have not been described below 1 year of age. However thumb sucking can affect not only the teeth/jaw but also the thumb growth itself. Food for thought - which would it be more difficult – trying to stop a baby sucking their thumb or gentle removing a dummy?
- However some babies just do not want to entertain a dummy! I have seen plenty of new mums trying to give their baby a dummy and the baby doesn’t know what to do with it or spits it out! The advice in relation to SIDS is not to force a dummy on your baby and not to try to replace the dummy if it falls out when they are asleep.
- It’s also important to mention that there should be no attachments on the dummy and it should not be dipped in anything to coat it.
The Lullaby Trust raises awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), provides expert advice on safer sleep for babies and offers emotional support for bereaved families; to visit their amazing website click here.
(You can also buy a cheap room thermometer from them too).
Thanks for reading
Jane – The Midwife
For more blogs on pregnancy, birth and life as a new mum please visit www.naturalbirthingcompany.com/blogs/news
If you are unsure about anything or have any concerns whilst pregnant please speak to your Midwife.