Key points* to help reduce the Risk of Cot Death / Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Cot death / Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a seemingly healthy baby during sleep. It does not happen only in a cot - it can happen anywhere a baby is sleeping. Research has shown that you can take steps to reduce the risk of cot death:
- Back to sleep - always (day and night) place your baby on their back to sleep. This does not increase the risk of choking or vomiting. Make sure everyone who looks after your baby uses the back to sleep position.
- Smoke free - create a smoke-free zone for your baby - do not smoke during pregnancy and don't let anyone smoke in your home, car or around your baby.
- Provide a safe sleep environment night and day:
- Shared room - separate cot - the safest place for your baby to sleep at night is in a cot in your room for the first 6 months. Bed-sharing can be dangerous especially if parents are smokers or if baby is premature or less than 3 months old.
- Face up - face free: keep your baby’s face and head uncovered while asleep.
- Feet to foot - place your baby with their feet to the foot of the cot.
- Clear cot – keep the cot free of soft objects and anything loose or fluffy (any pillows,duvets, cushions, bumpers, toys, wedges, bedding rolls) that could suffocate or smother your child.
- Do not use sleep positioners (and similar products) - these are not necessary, they do not prevent plagiocephaly (flat head) or cot death and are a suffocation risk. Please note that US and UK retailers have withdrawn baby sleep positioners from sale (Oct 2017) due to the products being linked to infant deaths in the US. Have a look at the FDA's short video about sleep positioners (this link will bring you to YouTube). More information is available from The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents - www.rospa.com - or the US Food and Drug Administration - www.fda.gov.
- Good condition - make sure the cot is in good condition, properly assembled and the mattress is clean, firm, flat with no tears and fits the cot correctly.
- Temperature - make sure baby does not get too hot when asleep:
- Baby should not wear a hat when being put down to sleep. This is because babies lose heat through their head so covering their head may cause your baby to become overheated.
- The room should be between 16-20oC.
- Don’t use too many covers or clothes - remember it is normal for baby’s hands and feet to feel cool.
- Soother/dummy - giving your baby a soother when they are being put down to sleep may reduce the risk of cot death. However, wait until breastfeeding is well-established before introducing a soother. Never force a soother if your baby does not like it. Offer the baby their soother every time they are going to sleep. Do not attach clips, strings, ribbons or chains to soothers as they are a choking and strangulation risk.
- Breastfeed your baby, if possible. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of cot death, so aim to breastfeed for as long as you can. If feeding in bed, always remember to return your baby to their own cot for sleep.
- Sitting devices - car seats, swings, infant seats, slings, carriers and similar devices are not recommended for routine sleep in the home:
- Sleeping in a sitting position can cause your baby’s head to fall forward and make it difficult to breathe.
- If your baby falls asleep in a sitting device they should be placed on their back to sleep as soon as is possible.
- It is important to never leave your baby unsupervised while in a sitting device, whether in the car, home or elsewhere.
- Tummy time - let your baby have some time on their tummy, when they are awake and while you supervise. It is important to begin tummy time from birth.
- Get medical advice early and quickly if your baby seems unwell and you find it hard to tell whether the illness is something minor or more serious. Remember - if it's an emergency, dial 999 or 112.
- Share these key points with everyone who looks after your baby.
- Cot death is still quite rare so while it is important to take all the necessary precautions, do not let fear spoil precious times with your baby.
- Contact the National Paediatric Mortality Register if you have any questions or would like more information about cot death (sudden infant death syndrome/SIDS) and risks:
This safe sleep information is from the booklet, "Safe Sleep for your Baby Reduce the Risk of Cot Death", produced by the National Paediatric Mortality Register in partnership with the Department of Public Health (Midlands). A poster outlining the key points is also available.
* The safe sleep advice here is intended for babies under 1 year of age who are "well". For babies with specific health needs, additional advice may be given by your healthcare professional.
Most unintentional injuries (often called accidents) can be prevented:
Remember the key message where child safety is concerned -
Watch your child at all times, as children do not understand danger