Five steps to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Nobody knows exactly what causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby, usually in her cot. Although the overall incident of SIDS is small, it's the most common form of death in babies under 12 months in developed countries. Most deaths occur between one week and six months.

Medical researchers are discovering more clues about this tragic occurrence. Here are successful ways to help protect your baby.

Put baby to sleep on her back
Keep her cot safe
Declare your home a smoke-free zone.
Make sure baby's not too hot.
Monitor baby's health.
  • Put baby to sleep on her back

    For the past 10 years, the American Academy of Paediatrics has recommended that babies sleep on their backs to help protect them from SIDS. The incidence of SIDS has been dramatically reduced in countries where parents have followed this advice.

    Putting babies to sleep on their stomachs is thought to put them at risk of inhaling stale air. However, premature babies, or babies with certain medical problems may be advised by their doctors to sleep on their stomachs.

    When baby is awake and being watched, it's important for her developing motor skills to spend time on her tummy.

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  • Keep her cot safe

    Baby should sleep on a firm cotton mattress in good condition. It should be clean, dry and well aired. Cover the mattress with a fitted sheet, with no pillows, duvets or soft bedding material as baby's face may get buried in the folds. Feather beds, waterbeds, beanbags, and uncovered plastic surfaces are also a suffocation risk. For the same reason, keep soft toys out of her cot.

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  • Declare your home a smoke-free zone.

    According to the results of studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO), babies of mothers who smoke are five times at risk of SIDS than babies of non-smokers. The risk is greater if the mom smoked during pregnancy, but exposure to second-hand smoke after birth is as dangerous to baby's health.

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  • Make sure baby's not too hot.

    SIDS is slightly more common in winter, leading experts to believe that overheating may be a factor. Don't overbundle baby. Baby's temperature is fine if she feels warm to the touch, but not sweaty. Your baby's too hot if her hair is damp, she has a heat rash, is breathing rapidly, is restless or has a fever.

    Try to keep baby's room temperature constant (it should feel comfortable to you) and dress her in one layer more than what you're comfortable in. Most heat is lost from the head, so always leave it uncovered. If baby feels too hot, remove a layer of clothing or bedding.

    Avoid swaddling and tucking in bedclothes so baby can throw them off if she feels hot. Duvets, cot bumpers and sleeping bags are heat insulators so shouldn't be used for babies under six months.To prevent baby from slipping under the covers, position her with her feet close to the foot of the cot.

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  • Monitor baby's health.

    Breastfeeding is healthiest for baby, and seems to offer some protection against SIDS.

    Minor illnesses don't cause SIDS, but in certain circumstances they seem to leave babies more prone to the condition. Some SIDS babies were suffering from minor ailments such as a cold or a stuffy nose for several days beforehand. Closely observe baby while she's ill and several days afterwards.

    Baby's general health and well being are important. Take your baby for regular clinic checks to ensure that her development is on track and she's healthy. Get prompt medical attention if your baby seems unwell or has a temperature over 38 degrees C. particularly if she's under six months.




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