October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, with UK Baby Loss Awareness Week held from 9th to 15th October. This month, lots of charities will come together to raise awareness about the key issues affecting those who have experienced pregnancy loss or baby death in the UK.
Global Wave of Light
On 15th October at 7pm, join families across the world in remembering all babies that have died too soon. Light a candle or join virtually, by posting a photo of your candle with #WaveOfLight
Sadly, nearly 300 babies and toddlers still die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) each year in the UK. SIDS is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby where no cause is found. Here at The Lullaby Trust, we provide specialist support for bereaved families and promote expert advice on safer baby sleep. Although we still don’t know exactly what causes SIDS, it is possible to significantly lower the chances of it happening. Babies need a lot of sleep during the first few months of their lives, so it’s important to ensure that they are sleeping as safely as possible. You should try to follow the advice for all sleep periods, not just at night.
This article lists the essential things you can do, and things to avoid, to help lower the chance of SIDS. Feel free to get in touch with us anytime to talk things over with a friendly helpline adviser, or have a chat to your midwife or health visitor. Finally, congratulations on your new baby! We hope you are enjoying this incredibly special time together.
Things you can do:
Always place your baby on their back to sleep
- You should always place your baby on their back to sleep and not on their front or side
- Make sure you are consistent with back sleeping- the chance of SIDS is particularly high for babies who are sometimes placed on their front or side
- Once your baby can roll from back to front and back again, on their own, they can be left to find their own position
Keep your baby smoke free
- Never smoke around your baby or have your baby in contact with smoky skin or clothing
- Don’t let your friends or family smoke near your baby and keep your home and other places the baby spends time, smoke free
Opt for breast milk over formula
- If you have the option, always prioritise breast milk over formula, as this has been shown to reduce the chance risk of SIDS
Use a dummy
- Recent research suggests the routine use of a dummy could help lower the chance of SIDS.
- If you choose to use a dummy, wait until breastfeeding has been established with your baby, usually around four weeks
- Offer the dummy at the beginning of each day and night time sleep, and gradually remove it between 6 and 12 months
- Don’t force your baby to take the dummy or put it back if they spit it out. Do not use a neck cord
Place your baby to sleep in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months, even during the day
- The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first 6 months is in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you
- The chance of SIDS is lower when babies sleep in the same room as their parents or carers, but do not share the same bed as them
Ensure your baby has a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in a good condition
- You should avoid using soft or bulky bedding (such as quilts, pillows and duvets) as these increase the chance of SIDS
- Try to avoid having loose items like soft toys in the cot, as these can be a potential hazard
- You should sleep your baby on a firm, flat mattress that is clean and in a good condition. A mattress with a waterproof cover will help you keep it clean and dry
Things to avoid:
Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
- Sofa sharing with a baby greatly increases the chance of SIDS
- Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby either next to you or on your chest, even during the day
Do not bed-share with your baby if any of these apply to you:
- If either you or your partner smokes (even if you do not smoke in the bedroom)
- If either you or your partner has drunk alcohol or taken drugs (including medications that may make you drowsy)
- If your baby is of low birth weight (2.5kg or 51/2lbs or less)
- If your baby was born premature (37 weeks or less)
Parents may choose to bed-share with their baby (to sleep, not just to comfort or feed) for various reasons. If this is your choice, it is important that you are informed about how to minimise the risks of this. It is important to note that a high proportion of infants who die as a result of SIDS are found with their head covered by loose bedding. Ensure there are no pillows, sheets, blankets or any other items in the bed with you that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat.
Avoid letting your baby get too hot
- It is important to make sure that your baby is a comfortable temperature – not too hot or too cold
- A room temperature of 16-20?C, with light bedding or a lightweight well-fitting sleeping bag, is comfortable and safe for sleeping babies
- Check your baby regularly to see if he or she is too hot. Look for sweating or feel your baby’s tummy – their hands and feet will usually be cooler, that’s normal. If your baby is hot, remove one or more layers of bedclothes
Don’t cover your baby’s face or head while sleeping or use loose bedding
- The use of loose bedding which can cover your baby’s face or head can be dangerous and can increase the chance of SIDS
- To keep your baby safe and their head uncovered while they are sleeping you can:
- Place your baby on their back in the ‘feet to foot’ position – this is where the baby’s feet are placed at the foot of the cot – so they can’t wriggle down under the blankets
- Use blankets which are firmly tucked in, no higher than your baby’s shoulders or baby sleeping bag
For more information or to discuss anything you’ve read today, you can phone The Lullaby Trust’s Information and Advice line on 0808 802 6869.
If you are looking for support following the death of a baby or toddler, The Lullaby Trust can help. Please phone our Helpline to talk to an Adviser on 0808 802 6868.