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The number of babies being put to sleep on their backs - a sleep position considered the safest - has reached a plateau since 2001. The Back To Sleep campaign launched in 1994 encouraged parents to place babies to sleep on their backs - rather than lying on their front. It was discovered that this position resulted in less incidences of Infant Death Syndrome (commonly known as "cot death").
Cot Death is the sudden, unexpected death of a baby. Even after a post mortem, the death remains unexplained. It is referred to as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Do we know the causes? Not really. A single cause has not been named. There could be various, even numerous factors that lead to the death, occurring when the babies are most vulnerable.
Are all babies at risk? It seems so. There is no evidence it happens to a certain race, or culture, or type of person. It usually occurs when the baby is under 6 months and it can happen at any time - not just when the baby is in a cot.
Are baby boys or girls more prone? It seems boys are slightly more at risk, as are premature babies and those of a low birth weight.
How can we reduce the risk?
- Put babies to sleep on their backs
- Do not smoke during pregnancy: you or your partner
- Don't allow anyone to smoke in the same room as your baby
- Consult your doctor if your baby shows any signs of illness
- Buy a new mattress for each baby, don't use second-hand mattresses
- Use a firm mattress but don't use a pillow
- Avoid cot bumpers - there is growing evidence that these interrupt the flow of oxygen and may be a contributory factor
- Lie your baby 'feet to foot' with their feet at the foot of the cot
- Breastfeed your baby as long as possible rather than using formula
- Keep your baby cool - don't allow overheating
- Place their feet at the foot of the cot so they can't wriggle under the covers and don't cover their heads
- Don't fall asleep with your baby in a chair and never sleep your baby in your bed
- Keep your baby's cot in your own room for the first six months
- Follow these guidelines for daytime naps too