SIDS, previously known as Cot Death, is one of the things that keeps me up at night. Literally. Since Baby S came to live with us, I’ve worried about the ‘what if’s’ and stand over her cot many times, every night and sometimes during the day too, checking she’s breathing. Ask any new parent or foster carer of a new born and they’ll tell you, this is not a unique feeling and as my training is a few years out of date, I decided to update my knowledge. It’s been the best thing I’ve done for my stress levels and for my sleep.
Before the midwife signed me over to the baby clinic, she left me a pack which included information about the Lullaby Trust and I rang them and booked a local course. The course was designed for young or new mums but it was the closest one to me so I signed up. It was run by Little Lullaby and the two young mum’s who facilitated the course hit just the right note with the young parents in the room. Most of them were initially nervous about answering questions or speaking out but by the end of the course, we were all chatting, every one of us relieved to have the tools to keep our babies safe.
The Lullaby Trust give out free information and packs as well as offering courses for parents/guardians and professionals. Check out their website to find a course near you, to download a fact sheet, for support or for general information. To recap my course, here are the basic facts to keep baby safe while sleeping, and to reduce the chances of SIDS, as outlined by The Lullaby Trust:
- Always place baby on their back to sleep. Some care givers worry this may be unsafe if they vomit, but research shows this is the safest position. It’s true that babies sleep deeper and longer on their front and a sleep deprived parent may be enticed to place baby on their front, but it is because of the deeper sleep that it is considered unsafe;
- Never be tempted to fall asleep on the sofa or in an armchair with baby. This is thought to be one of the most high risk sleep situations;
- The safest place for baby to sleep is their own cot or basket. Bed sharing is not recommended, particularly if any of these apply; baby was a low birth rate or premature, if you are or partner smokes, has had an alcoholic drink or taken drugs or if you feel more tired than usual;
- Breastfeed if you can;
- Don’t smoke. Keep your house and clothes smoke free;
- Keep baby in the same bedroom with you, in their own cot or baby basket, for the first 6 months;
- Use a clean, firm waterproof mattress. If you have a borrowed Moses basket or cot, check where it was stored and if possible, buy a new mattress for it;
- Baby must not be too hot in bed as this significantly increases the chance of SIDS. Invest in a room thermometer and keep the room between 16-20C, which is colder than most people would estimate. A simple, cheap thermometer is available from the Lullaby Trust’s online shop;
- Like room temperature, the type of bedding is important too. Use lightweight bedding which is tucked in to avoid covering baby’s face. Don’t use a quilt, duvet or double thickness blankets. Don’t use a pillow and make sure all bedding is well fitted and loose;
- Dummy use. This is a controversial issue, however research has shown that babies who consistently sleep with a dummy are at a lower risk of SIDS. The Lullaby Trust has produced a fact sheet for the use of dummies and the research behind it, which outlines the best and safest way to use a dummy when baby sleeps.
The above advice from the Lullaby Trust applies to naps during the day as well as at night.
Working alongside the NHS, the Lullaby Trust offers advice and guidance on safe baby sleep and supports research into how to prevent baby deaths during sleep. They also offer support for families who have suffered a bereavement due to SIDS. For more information contact The Lullaby Trust.