I think any mum sitting down to write an article on this topic would feel the same – the first sentence and I can hardly breathe. I can’t possibly try to empathise with or understand how the horror of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) must make a family feel, it’s beyond the scope of my words and heavily beyond the strength of my heart. So I begin this article with a huge sorrow and sadness for those families already affected and also with a clear purpose of writing in the hope that together, as parents, we can ensure that our babies are exposed to as few risk factors as physically possible.
According to the HSE website SIDS can be defined as “the sudden unexpected death of an apparently well infant for which there is no explanation”. They also say that “most babies die in their sleep peacefully”.
SIDS is not common – that is important to know – but from the most up to date information I could find it still claimed the lives of 34 babies in Ireland in 2004. This is significantly reduced from 134 babies per year in the 1980s. Babies are less affected when they start to gain mobility at about five months of age. The MOST IMPORTANT thing to take away from this article is that reducing the risk factors for SIDS has reduced the amount of babies that have died. So the advice you hear at every hospital appointment, GP or public health nurse visit is all trying to deliver the same message – if you follow the guidelines for SIDS risk reduction you reduce the risk of your baby being affected.
What do we know?
It is also important to appreciate that whilst some risk factors have been associated with SIDS the cause actually remains unknown. Sometimes there are no answers to the questions SIDS must raise, even though I imagine answers are what you would actually need and be looking for. With this in mind I think all we can do is the best with the information that we DO know.
We know that 9 out of 10 SIDS deaths occur when a baby is six months or younger. We know that more baby boys than girls die from SIDS (1.5 : 1). We know that premature and low birth weight babies have an increased risk of SIDS. We know that exposure to tobacco smoke can increase your babies risk of SIDS x 8! We know that smoking during pregnancy can increase your babies risk of SIDS x 4! We know that sleeping with an adult increases the risk of SIDS and that this risk increases if the adult has consumed ANY alcohol or drugs which may cause drowsiness. We know that putting a baby to sleep on their tummy or side increase the risk of SIDS. We know that a baby using a duvet, quilt or pillow under one year of age is more at risk of SIDS. Finally we know that a baby who is over heated through their clothes or environment is at increased risk of SIDS. So actually we know a lot.
How do we use this info to reduce the risk of SIDS?
- Place your baby on their back when putting them down for sleep. If they roll onto their tummy with physical ability and by choice it’s ok but don’t place them to sleep on their tummy. Their feet should be touching the foot of the cot.
- Use thin blankets or sheets no higher than their shoulders and tuck them in so that they can’t slip over their heads. Alternatively I found it easier to use baby sleeping bags. Always use the correct size sleeping bag for your baby as otherwise it may slip over their heads – if the small size of sleeping bag seems too big just use blankets for a few more weeks.
- Do tummy time to help develop strength and muscle tone – you can read more about this in my flat head article by clicking here.
- Eradicate all exposure of tobacco smoke to your baby – quit smoking if your can or if not ensure you smoke outside (another room in the house or out the window will not completely get rid of the smoke – you may not be able to smell or see it but it can linger for a couple of hours in a room.) Don’t handle the baby or let another smoker soon after a cigarette. For support to quit smoking check out this great website – www.quit.ie – loads of brilliant support and tips available!
- Its been found that the lowest risk of SIDS is in babies who sleep in a cot or crib in the same room as their parents until they are six months of age. I found a co-sleeper crib great as it meant I had a lot of the convenience of co-sleeping whilst breastfeeding and recovering from c-section but also the baby had the safety of their own space – in my room.
- Whilst the evidence is not robust on this tip it’s still worth mentioning that soother use has been associated with a reduction in SIDS risk. Obviously if your baby doesn’t take to a soother then there’s nothing you can do about it, but if your baby does like a soother at bed time then it’s no harm – and if it falls out when they’re asleep there is no need to put it back in unless they look for it 🙂 For lot’s of more information on soother use check out my full blog by clicking here!
- Don’t use a duvet, quilt or pillow for your baby if they are under 12 months of age.
- Keep the temperature of their bedroom between 16 and 20 degrees celcius – ideally 18!
- Don’t place their cot, crib, or moses basket next to a radiator, heater, fire or in direct sunlight.
- Babies regulate their heat a lot using their heads – so no hats in bed.
- Use a firm clean mattress which fits the cot or basket well – with no gaps down the sides.
Whilst it’s important to be aware of the risk factors and reduce them where you can I think as parents we would find it hard to cope if you thought this was a common occurrence which was a big risk to your baby every day. So using the most recent figure I could see of 34 Cot Deaths per year in 2004 and also looking at the stats for 2016 – it would mean that to the 34 babies who died there were 63,863 who did not. We can’t always fear what might happen, if we are taking reasonable precautions to reduce risk factors and act as responsible parents I think we have to just believe that everything will be fine and enjoy our beautiful WonderBabas as they grow and develop into amazingly unique and perfect individuals with more wonder to reveal each day.
If you would like to learn more about SIDS or need support there are some great resources available in Ireland:
- HSE Website – http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/C/Cot-death/Preventing-sudden-infant-death-syndrome.html
- First Light – a fantastic source of support and guidance https://firstlight.ie/
I hope you found this information helpful and as always don’t hesitate to contact me on the WonderBaba Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) with any questions or for one to one advice for your little one! You can also consult with me in person at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 or over the phone on 012600262