Facing fears

Following on from Tuesday’s post on baby safety in general, I decided it was time to confront my (and probably most parents’ to be) ultimate nightmare and investigate sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). You can take as many first aid courses as you please, but unfortunately there is very little you can do to try and reduce the likelihood of this tragedy. Or is there?

Otherwise known as cot death, SIDS is the unexpected death of an otherwise well baby. According to the NHS, male babies with a low birth weight are at the most risk. Although no-one can say for sure what the definite causes might be, it is generally agreed that you can in fact take several measures to try and reduce the chances of it happening, including:

  • Not smoking during or after pregnancy (the NHS says that babies exposed to smoke are 4-8 times more likely to die from SIDS)
  • Putting babies to sleep on their backs, and for the first six months keeping them in the room with their parent(s)
  • Monitoring babies’ temperature so they do not get too hot.


The Lullaby Trust, formerly known as the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, has an informative website that goes into detail about several things you can do. Some advice was new to me, such as:

  • The baby should be with you whenever it sleeps, even during the day (I’m not sure how practical this would be in reality, but it’s helpful to have this guideline)
  • Don’t fall asleep with your baby on the sofa or when you are breastfeeding (I’d imagined breastfeeding in the night half asleep – now must make sure I do wake up properly!)
  • Use of a dummy might actually reduce the risk of cot death, although there are caveats.

What I do need to remember is that SIDS is extremely rare. While around 300 babies a year do die suddenly, that means a vast number do not. The Lullaby Trust’s statistics page tells me that the rate is 0.4 per 1000 live births for boys, and 0.3 per 1000 for girls. In other words, the risk is minute.

In the meantime, we plan to try and adhere to the recommended guidelines – after all, there is nothing to lose by doing so!

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