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Enjoy your baby What is cot death and how common is it? Cot death is more properly known as sudden infant death syndrome SIDS. It is the term used to describe the sudden death of a baby in its sleep where no cause or reason can be found. Cot death is uncommon. About 1 in 3, babies die due to cot death in the UK. That is, about babies a year in the UK. Most cases occur in babies under the age of 1 year. The age range where there is the most risk is months. However, the number of cases in the UK has fallen sharply since the introduction of the 'Back to sleep' campaign in Before this twice as many babies died every year from cot death.

This campaign was launched because research showed that the fashion at the time for placing babies to sleep on their front increased the risk of a cot death. The campaign has resulted in most parents now knowing that the safest position for a young baby to sleep is on their back. In addition to the sleeping position, other factors can reduce the risk of a cot death.

These are detailed below. What can I do to reduce the risk of cot death? Research has shown that the risk of cot death can be reduced. The things you can do fall into four main categories: Sleeping - learn the best way for your baby to sleep. Smoking - create a smoke-free home for your baby. Symptoms of illness - see a doctor if your baby appears unwell. Make sure that any childminders or babysitters know this too. Lay your baby on their back to sleep In other words, do not lay him or her on their front or side.

Cot death is less common in babies who sleep on their back. It is important to put babies on their backs for daytime naps and any other times of sleep, in addition to the longer night-time sleep. The evidence shows that babies who sleep on their back are not more likely to choke than babies who sleep on their front. This unfounded worry was why it was common to put babies on their front in the past.

When your baby is aged about months they will normally start to be able to roll over. At first, if you find that your baby has rolled over on to their front then turn them back on to their back. However, you do not need to keep on checking in the night. Soon, they will be able to roll over and back again on their own and, like adults, they will toss and turn in their sleep. When they can do this it is fine for your baby to find their own position to sleep.

The risk of cot death falls sharply at this age and it is safe for them to sleep in whatever position they like. Bedclothes Do not use a pillow - just use a firm mattress that fits well into the cot, covered with a sheet. Use layers of sheets and thin blankets to cover your baby.

baby sleeping cot bed Baby sleeping cot bed

Do not use duvets, quilts, or other soft, loose covers. Do this at least until the baby is 1 year old. Duvets and loose covers are more likely to cover a baby's face. Also, using several thin layers allows you to put on or take off layers depending on the room temperature. The newer baby 'sleeping bags' mean you do not have to use any additional bedding for your baby.

The baby 'wears' the sleeping bag - a bit like a pinafore dress with the bottom sewn up. They come in different 'tog' weights, just like a normal duvet. This means you can choose a sleeping bag of the appropriate warmth depending on whether it is summer or winter, or whether you live in a hot or cold climate. Your baby can wear a vest, babygro or pyjamas, again depending on the warmth of the room in which they sleep.

The advantage of sleeping bags is that your baby cannot bury himself or herself under the covers; sleeping bags also mean that your baby cannot pull their covers off in the night and become too cold. Sleeping bags can also prevent a younger baby from rolling on to his or her front or side. The sleeping bags are sized according to age and your baby must be a minimum weight to wear one - consult the manufacturers' labels for more information.

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This means they are usually not suitable for newborns - only babies who are a few months old. Many parents now choose sleeping bags for their babies, although they can be quite expensive.

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Do not place soft materials or objects such as pillows, quilts, comforters, or sheepskins under a sleeping baby. Also, keep stuffed toys and other soft objects out of the cot. If you use bumper pads in a cot they should be thin, firm, well secured and not 'pillow-like'. They should also be free from loose ties that present a strangle hazard. Cover your baby up to their chest and shoulders only The head must be left uncovered.

Tuck sheets and blankets under the sides of the mattress to stop them riding up on to the face.

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  • Tuck them so they reach up to your baby's armpits but not above. Some parents prefer not to use any sheets or blankets. They use 'sleeping bags' detailed above that are designed to keep the baby warm without the possible hazard of the head being covered in the night. Lay your baby 'feet to foot' That is, the baby's feet should be just touching the foot of the cot. This means they cannot slip further down the cot under the sheets or blankets. Temperature Babies need to be warm but not too warm.

    Being too warm increases the risk of cot death. Have the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you. If your baby is sweating or feels hot then they are too warm. Do not place a baby's cot next to a heater or radiator, or in direct sunlight.

    Also, do not use hot water bottles, electric blankets, etc. When you sleep, share a room with your baby - but not your bed A cot or crib next to your bed is the best place for your baby to sleep until they are at least 6 months old.

    It is best not to share a bed with your baby when you sleep so-called 'co-sleeping'.

    The following guidelines have been developed to help when looking for a cot: It is best not to share a bed with your baby when you sleep so-called 'co-sleeping'.

    There is a risk that you might roll over on to your baby when you are asleep, or your baby may get trapped under the bedclothes.

    It is normal to feed and cuddle your baby when you are resting in bed but awake. However, when it is time for you to sleep, the best place for your baby is in a cot next to your bed.

    baby sleeping cot bed Baby sleeping cot bed

    In particular, there is an increased risk when bed-sharing if: Your baby was born prematurely, had a low birth weight, or is less than 3 months old. You smoke - or your partner smokes - even if you do not smoke in the home. You are very tired or you are taking medication that can make you drowsy.

    You have taken any alcohol or drugs. The baby should be placed in a Moses basket or a cot next to your bed. You can also now get cots that attach to the side of your bed. The baby has his or her own area in which to sleep but there are no rails on the side next to you.

    This means you can feed your baby safely in bed even breast-feeding lying down but once finished, you can just slide the baby over into the cot.

    Consider offering your baby a dummy when it is time to sleep Research studies have shown that the use of a dummy can reduce the risk of cot death. It is not clear how but it seems to help. Therefore, consider offering your baby a dummy at the start of each episode of sleep. However, if you breast-feed, do not start to use a dummy until you are well established with breast-feeding.

    This is normally when the baby is about 1 month old. However, do not force a dummy on a baby who does not want one. If the dummy falls out when a baby is asleep, just leave it out. Also, never coat a dummy with anything such as sweet liquids or sugar. Clean and replace dummies regularly. Do not fall asleep with your baby on a sofa, armchair, settee, etc This has been shown to increase the risk of cot death. Cigarette smoke is a main 'risk factor' for cot death.

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  • Do not let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby. Smoking whilst pregnant also increases the risk of your baby having a cot death. The greater the number of cigarettes smoked per day whilst pregnant, the greater the risk. If at all possible, do not smoke when you are pregnant. Your practice nurse, GP or midwife can give you advice and help if you want to stop smoking but are finding it difficult.

    There are usually no symptoms to alert parents or carers that anything is wrong. However, sometimes an illness is not recognised and quickly becomes worse. See a doctor if your baby appears unwell. Use your instincts - you know best if something is not right.

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