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Preventing Cot Death (SIDS)

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 18 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Cot Death Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Although most babies are born healthy and develop normally, it is natural for parents to worry about the health and safety of their children. One of the greatest concerns for parents of infants is cot death. Officially, cot death, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is described as the unexplained death of an otherwise healthy infant in the first year of life. Taking steps to reduce the risk of cot death can help parents to rest easy.

During Pregnancy

Taking care of babies begins well before they are born. Studies show that babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are three times more likely to succumb to cot death than infants of nonsmoking mothers. Also, be sure to receive adequate prenatal care. Regular check ups help to ensure the health of both mother and baby.

Keeping Baby Safe

While there is no way to completely guarantee a baby's safety, there are some things that parents can do to lower the risks of cot death. If possible, breastfeed your baby, at least for the first few months. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that breastfed babies have a lower incidence of cot death.

Do not smoke around your baby and insist that others refrain from smoking in the baby's presence, too. Infants who are exposed to second-hand smoke are twice as likely to die from cot death than those who are in a non-smoking environment.

Safe Sleeping

  • When selecting bedding, choose a firm, flat mattress and keep the cot free of blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys. If you want use bumpers, be sure that they are well secured and allow for adequate air flow.
  • Always put babies down to sleep on their backs. Sleeping on the tummy or side increases the risk of cot death. Once babies can roll themselves over both ways on their own (typically between 5-7 months), there is no need to reposition them if they choose an alternate sleeping position.
  • Keep baby's cot in your bedroom for about the first 6 months. This will allow you to be close at hand.
  • Although opinions vary, many experts feel that co-sleeping is a dangerous behaviour. It is acceptable to bring the baby into your bed for feedings, but babies should not be allowed to sleep in bed with their parents.
  • A comfortably cool sleeping environment is safest for babies. Dress baby in light sleepwear and keep the room between 16-20° Celsius. In general, if you are comfortable in light clothing, the room is plenty warm for your baby, too.
  • There is no need to use a blanket at all during the first few months, but if you choose to, be sure that it is well secured so as not to cover the baby's face. Young babies do not yet have the strength to untangle themselves from a blanket.
  • Recent studies indicate that pacifier use may decrease the incidence of cot death. If your baby favours using a pacifier, always lay them down with the pacifier in their mouth, but do not feel that you have to replace it if it falls out during sleep.
It is a good idea to take a class on infant lifesaving and CPR while you are pregnant. Additionally, be sure that all of your child's caregivers are well versed on lifesaving techniques and practice cot death prevention steps when caring for your baby. Finally, secure ongoing medical care for your child. Babies who have regular well baby check ups have a lower incidence of cot death, possibly because of their overall improved health status.

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