In what follows, we’ll be talking about the distressing and worrying subject of SIDS.
Do please remember, we are not offering qualified medical advice. If you’d like to know more detail about your own child, you should consult your doctor or a paediatrician.
What is SIDS?
It is a term used to describe an infant’s death which cannot be explained by a conventional autopsy or medicine. Affected infants may have had no obvious underlying health conditions.
In reality, the term describes deaths which might be attributable to any one of a number of causes.
The big 20th-century campaign
Although the exact causes of SIDS were impossible to explain in most cases, paediatricians noticed that statistically, infants sleeping on their tummies were far more likely to suffer SIDS than those sleeping on their backs.
This led to a major global campaign to encourage parents to put their infants down to sleep on their backs, not tummies.
The results were spectacular. Within a very short time, the instances of SIDS were reduced in many countries by between 40-60%.
Why does tummy versus back make such a difference?
The fact is that this is just not clear.
There is some evidence that babies find it easier to breathe on their backs, their body temperature regulation may work better and so on.
The next steps
Many health care professionals have since examined the statistics again and are now making further recommendations to reduce SIDS events:
- if you’re not already doing so, make sure your child is put down to sleep on their back;
- feed infants with breast milk if at all possible (at the breast or expressed);
- don’t breast-feed an infant in your bed in the middle of the night if you’re exhausted – there is too great a risk of you rolling onto them;
- avoid having your baby sleeping in bed at night with you – even though that may feel perfectly natural. Instead, let them have their own cot alongside the bed close to you;
- many experts now recommend not using a pillow or blanket in a cot. The latter may prove a challenge if the weather is cold and you might wish to take further advice on that one but infant deaths have arisen where suspicion has fallen heavily on blanket tangles etc;
- make sure no toys or accessories which could, accidentally, obstruct the child’s free and easy breathing,are in the cot. That would include soft buffer-padding around crib bars or any other cot-gadgets design to make it more comfortable for the baby etc;
- your baby’s crib should never be too soft. For the same reason, they should not be put down on couches or soft armchairs to snooze. There is too great a risk of them rolling over or onto their side and their breathing being disrupted by soft enveloping materials;
- don’t overdress infants to such an extent that there’s a risk they overheat in the night.
It’s perfectly normal for parents to be constantly worried about their baby. It’s a built-in reaction to help the survival of the species.
Even so, some of the above steps should help reduce the chances of SIDS in many situations. Don’t forget to ask your doctor for more specific advice as there may be minor differences of opinion on certain specific points.