SIDS and Cot Mattresses

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The standard advice on cot mattresses id to use a new cot mattress for each new child if possible, and make sure any cot mattress is clean and dry, there is reaserch that links the use of second hand cot mattresses expecially if these cot mattresses have come from another home and increased risk of cot death.

What is cot death?

Cot death is the diagnosis given when an apparently perfectly healthy baby dies, without warning, and for no clear reason ( Sudden Infant Death Syndrome SIDS ).

When a baby dies suddenly, doctors and investigators will try to find out why this has happened. This often includes a post mortem examination, which will look into aspects such as seeing where the baby died, also a review of the baby’s medical records, amongst other factors.

In less than 50% of cot deaths there is an underlying health condition or another factor, such as an illness or if  accident is found to have attributed the cause.

Cot deaths that have no apparent reason and after a thorough examination are most often registered as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) also called sudden infant death, unexplained death, or cot death. Sadly, there are still just over 300 cot deaths in the UK each year although the figuer as a percentage has dropped significantly since the early 1990s..

Although cot death is one of the most common causes of death in newborn babies, it is still a rare occurance.

Why does SIDS (cot death) happen?

The answer to this is that no one knows really knows, some babies just seem to die in this way. It could well be be a combination of factors that affect a baby at a very vulnerable stage in their formative development.

One theory is that some babies could have a problem with the part of the brain that controls breathing and coordination. And  that these babies may not respond if their breathing gets slightly restricted, in situations such as if there are bedclothes covering their nose or mouth.

When does (SIDS) cot death happen?

Cot death often occurs when a baby is thought to be sleeping. This is often at night, but it can also happen during the day  in shorter sleeps, could be in a pram, or it could even happen whilst in their parent’s arms. One factor is that Cot deaths are more common in the wintermonths , though it’s not clear why this is.

Which babies are most at risk of cot death ?

Around  90% of cot deaths happen in the first six months of the infants life. And the most of these are within the first three months, the peak being in the second month. Then the risk of cot death falls dramatically as your baby grows older, and after a year very few cot deaths ever occur.

Please remember that cot death is a rare occurance. The vast majority of babies pass through their first six months without any problems whatsoever.

It is also a very rare occurance for cot death to happen twice in the same family. One other unknown is that It very rare that babies of South Asian families to fall victim to a cot death. The highest rate of cot deaths are from babies of mums who are under the age of 20 years.

Of course there are always other factors that you will never be able to change that will put a baby at a higher risk of suffering a cot death.

    • If the baby is a boy :  The ratio is about 60 % boys to 40 % girls.
    • If the baby was born prematurely i.e before 37 weeks.
  • If the baby had a low  weight at birth i.e. less than 5½ lb (2½ Kg).

Can I reduce my baby’s risk of cot death?

There’s no failsafe way in order to prevent an infant suffering a cot death. All you can do a number of reccomended things that will help to keep your baby safer and hopefully reduce the risk.

Firstly always put your baby to sleep on his or her back, when in a cot or in a moses basket. And for the first six months it is a good idea to have your baby in a room with you.

Healthy babies when placed on their back to sleep are not more likely to choke. This position is the safest  position for your baby to sleep in.

When your baby gets to around five months or six months old, your baby will probably start to roll. It is at this age that the risk of cot death reduces dramatically and thei it is safe to start to let your baby find his or her most comfortable sleeping position. Still however put your baby down to sleep on his or her back at first.

If you wake up at night and see that your baby is on his or her front, and the baby is younger than six months old, gently roll your baby on to their back. Babies that are older than this usually can roll onto their backs by themselves. You really dont don’t need to get up and check throughout the night, as the baby will most likely to change position regularly throughout the night whilst sleeping.

Do not smoke during your pregnancy or allow anyone else to smoke around your baby. It is the one clear finding, If you smoke during and or after pregnancy,  your baby’s risk of cot death increases. the fact is that cot death is much more common in babies who are regularly exposed to smoke.

The risk to your baby is also increased if anyone in the house is a smoker that smolkes in the house, even if it’s done in another room and even with a window open. People who live and or visit the house should smoke outside so that the air around your baby is always smoke free. And definatley never smoke in the same room that your baby is in.

The following tips may also help to reduce your baby’s risk of cot death, although the evidence is less clear in these findings / suggestions.

Try not to let your baby get too hot. Overheating has been linked to an increased risk of cot death. Try to keep the room your baby sleeps in at a comfortable temperature of between 16°C and 20°C. Do not  put your baby’s cot or cot bed near a radiator or a heater or fire, and not in direct sunlight. And do not place a hot water bottle, and definatley not an electric blanket in your baby’s cot.

If your baby is too hot look for the following :

  • is your baby sweating
  • does he or she have damp hair
  • is there signs of a heat rash
  • is the baby breathing rapidly
  • Is the baby restless
  • and signs of fever

Touch your baby’s tummy or neck to feel if she or he is too hot or to cold then adjust his or her bedding accordingly. If you feel of the babys hands or feet you probably wont know as it is  normal for these parts of a babys body to feel colder.

If hot take off any hats and or any extra layers of clothing as soon as you come indoors after having been outside, even if it means waking your baby up.

Do not sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby.  put your baby back in the cot or cotbed on a suitable mattress that is clean dry and fits well, without large gaps at the sides. Surfaces not really suotable for youbaby to sleep on are beanbags, fleeces and other very soft surfaces.

If your baby gets  too hot, then remove a blanket. If too cold then add one. A blanket that is folded in half will form two layers and act like two blankets. Avoid the use of duvets quilt and pillows if your baby is under a year old.

Always breastfeed your baby if possible  breastfeeding may well reduce the risk of cot death in babies. as breastmilk increases your baby’s resistance to all sorts of infections.

Take your baby for regular check up’s and always keep up to date with your babys immunisations. and seek medical advice as soon as you see that iyour baby has become unwell.

Daytime naps?

The advice for safe sleeping whilst your baby is having daytime naps, is the same as at night. Lay your baby down to sleep on his or her back and make sure your baby canmot cover his or her head with bedclothes whilst sleeping.

Again for the first six months always try to have your baby in the same room as you whilst sleeping. A moses basket, Crib or Carry Cot or Travel Mattress are all good ways to keep your baby nearby while you get on with what you want need to do.

Will sleep monitor’s or other devices help?

A breathing monitor could  be recommended to youby your doctor, usually if your baby has already had a life threatening incident with breathing, or if the baby has other cot death risk factors which have been diagnosed. However, healthy babies usually do not need a breathing monitor.

Is it safe to sleep with my baby?

The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first six months is in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you not in bed with you.

Never share a bed with your baby, if you or your partner do the following:

  • If you are are a smoker, even if you do not smoke whilst near your baby.
  • If you have been drinking alcohol.
  • If you have taken any medication or drugs.
  • If you are very tired.

The risks of you co sleeping with your baby are often increased if your baby:

  • was premature i.e born before 37 weeks.
  • weighed less than 2.5kg at birth 5.5lb

Where can I get more information?

The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) is by far the best place to go it offers lots of information and is a professionnal organisation which specialises in this below is a link to their website and a downloadable document with their guidelines, and you can also talk to your health visitor if you are worried about cot death and your baby. Remember though cot death is rare.

Or download the FSID guidelines here SIDS-Guidelines.pdf