When my little one was born my biggest fear crept in at night, so many horror stories of infants passing in their sleep and still, after much research there is no cause found.
Every little sound my daughter made had me by her crib, sleep became non existent for me as I lay awake just to hear her breathing, it was worrying. I’m not the only one, all new Mums have this fear and the way forward is to ensure we are following safe sleep guidelines. There is never a guarantee you will not experience this horrific tragedy (apologies if this triggers any worry or sadness but I need to stress the importance of safe sleep procedures) but you will be able to rest easier knowing you are doing everything possible to reduce the risk and keep your baby safe.
What is SIDS?
SIDS is short for sudden infant death syndrome, commonly known as cot death. This has torn families apart and can happen to even the healthiest of babies. Over 300 infants die each year in the UK alone which I found absolutely terrifying. Researchers have studied this and still, death after death, find no cause during post mortem.
Factors that may increase the risk of SIDS
- Unsafe sleeping positions
Your baby’s sleep position can have an impact on the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. There is significant evidence to support laying a child on their front or on their side can increase the risk meaning SIDS is 6x more likely to occur. The safest position for a baby is to be placed down to sleep flat on their back. When a your little one is strong enough to roll back and forward on their own, only then can they be left to find their own sleeping position.
Smoking both during and after pregnancy can increase the risk of SIDS. During pregnancy the risk factor is placed on the amount of cigarettes smoked per day, the higher number of cigarettes the Mother smokes the higher the risk. Passive smoking is not only dangerous for your child’s lungs, it plays a part in increasing your little ones risk of SIDS which is why it is strongly recommended that you don’t allow smoking around your child. Bed sharing (discussed in more detail further down) is not advised as this alone can increase the risk of SIDS if strict guidelines are not followed, it is worth mentioning that bed sharing with a parent / adult who smokes can significantly increase the risk of SIDS.
- Usafe Environment
It is dangerous to fall asleep on a sofa or armchair with your child as they are likely to get caught between you and the back of the sofa or armchair, SIDS risk is extremely increased in this situation.
Bed sharing shows an increased risk especially with premature or low weight babies. You should also be aware of the dangers in sleeping with your baby whilst intoxicated with drugs or alcohol, this could be fatal. As mentioned above, bed sharing risk is increased again when parent / parents are smokers.
Overheating is a major factor in the increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome. This can happen when the room temperature is too high or your child is wrapped excessively with blankets, quilts or swaddles.
Bedding or additional sheets can be dangerous as a high number of children who have died from SIDS were found with their heads covered, unable or unaware to remove this causing overheating or breathing problems. Pillows alone increase the risk of SIDS by 2.5x compared with children who sleep with no pillow.
The use of soft, padded sleep surfaces or second hand mattresses have also been known to impacts on SIDS risk factor.
How to reduce the risk of SIDS
There have been many studies carried out that found allowing your little one to sleep in the same room as you (not the same bed) can decrease the risk. Until your child is 6 months old the safest place for them to sleep is in a moses basket, cot or crib. This includes daytime naps.
Studies have consistently shown breast feeding significantly decreases the risk of SIDS. The risk is decreased further in babies who are solely breastfed however; breastfeeding for any duration helps reduce the risk.
Ensure your baby has a safe sleeping environment. Place them at the bottom of their crib, cot or moses basket with their feet touching the bottom. Avoid pillows, blankets, sheets or quilts. Avoid placing lose items or cuddly toys in with the child. Avoid the use of padding around the crib / cot. Ensure room temperature is comfortable.
Remember and use safe sleeping positions by placing your little one flat on their back, this includes day time naps.
Will a dummy / pacifier reduce the risk of SIDS?
When I was pregnant I read about this on so many occasions, there is advice stating the use of a dummy reduces SIDS and then I read so many articles advising against the use of a pacifier. After much research I opted to give my little one a dummy. Many studies found there is in fact a reduced risk in infants who soothe themselves to sleep with a pacifier (excuse me for changing between dummy, pacifier & soother, I appreciate people refer to them differently) It is not known how or why the use of a soother helps but there is researching result showing there is a reduction in risk and absolutely no evidence to indicate they increase the risk.
So, I personally opted to use a dummy for my daughter. For your child the choice is yours.
If you choose to give your child a pacifier here is a few things to remember:
- Wait until baby is 4 weeks old and breastfeeding is well established as the dummy can cause confusion when child then has to latch back onto the nipple.
- Stop the use of the dummy between 6 – 12 months.
- Do not use a neck cord.
- Do not force your child to use a dummy.
- If your child spits the dummy out and is not looking for it, do not put it back in their mouth.
- Do not offer the dummy during wake time.
- Do not put anything sweet on the dummy.
- Orthodontic dummy is best as it adapts to the shape of baby’s mouth.
- If you start using a dummy in your baby’s sleep routine this must remain consistent.
Again, apologies if this triggers any sadness or worry and I appreciate this can be a morbid topic for any new parent but it is important you understand the importance of sleep safety. I cannot encourage you enough to research these topics then do what is best for you and your child to avoid this tragedy.
Far too many families have lost a precious little infant due to SIDS and I know they would do anything in the world just to hold them again.
I send all my love to these families, I can’t begin to imagine what you went through or are going through.
Yes we all want our babies to sleep well, we all want to rest easy at night but before we focus on how to establish a healthy sleep routine I can only hope you understand the importance of taking these small steps to reduce the risk of SIDS for your little one. Don’t leave yourself open to loss, sadness or guilt from a tragedy like this.
I have attached some links below of useful information sources to encourage self research. You will also find charities below that helps families who have suffered SIDS, they also help fund research and awareness.
Mummy Said So x