From awareness of the condition to ways to prevent it, articles on the topic of SIDS are being released all the time. Unfortunately, some of the advice offered to readers in these articles is not always helpful. To add our expert opinion to the mix, we thought we would share our official advice on how to create a safer sleeping environment so that you and your baby can enjoy a happy and healthy sleep.
What is SIDS?
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is the sudden and unexplained death of an otherwise healthy baby. It’s sometimes referred to as “cot death” and according to the NHS, in the UK alone, around 300 babies are reported to die from SIDS every year.
In the past, the condition was more widely recognised as “cot death”. However, today, SIDS is the most popular and frequently used term due to the public’s increased understanding that placing a child to sleep in a cot isn’t the sole cause of the condition.
The cause of SIDS is still largely unknown, though there are a number of factors that are thought to contribute to the condition:
– A premature baby is thought to be at greater risk of SIDS due to their vulnerability associated with a lower birthweight and a weakened immune system.
– External and environmental factors are also an issue and second-hand tobacco smoke and breathing obstructions can also lead to SIDS. Just recently, a fresh warning from the NHS was released stating that “long periods of sleep in a car seat can be dangerous for young babies”.
– The sleeping environment of your baby is thought to be the biggest contributing factor of SIDS and the use of bedding, pillows and co-sleeping is not recommended in your baby’s night time routine. A recent article in the Daily Mirror promotes the use of ‘baby head positioner’ pillows. Although these appear to be an effective preventative tool, they should be avoided.
Ensuring your Baby is Sleeping Safely
Last year we celebrated 25 years of the Back to Sleep campaign. This campaign, heralded by Anne Diamond has saved countless lives through bringing to light the danger of putting a child to sleep on their stomach. Now, thanks to this campaign and the advice of the lullaby trust, parents everywhere realise the importance of placing their baby on their back to sleep.
Create a firm sleeping surface with a firm mattress in a safety-approved cot, covering the mattress with a soft fitted sheet. It’s important to remove any additional bedding so do not use pillows, blankets or extra sheets in the cot. Remove soft toys from the cot every time your baby is left unattended or is sleeping.
Although it can be tempting to use a blanket to keep your baby warm during the night, we recommend using more appropriate night time clothing such as a one-piece sleeping garment or a grow bag and ensure nothing is ever covering your baby’s head.
We do not encourage that you co-sleep with your baby at any time, instead keeping their sleeping area close by or next to you. Your baby should never sleep in an adult bed, sofa or chair and left unattended.
We strongly advise all parents to put into action all of the precautionary measures outlined by the back to sleep campaign to ensure your baby is sleeping safe and sound.
Placing your baby on their back for extended periods can, however, cause a flattening to develop on the back of the head. Plagiocephaly is the medical term used to describe a common condition in which one side of a baby’s skull is significantly flatter than the other and clinical reports suggest that the condition may affect as many as one in two babies.
Babies are born with soft, malleable skulls to accommodate the natural and rapid growth that occurs in the brain during infancy. Because babies spend a lot of time on their back with their head in the same position whilst they are asleep and during the day, plagiocephaly can develop as a result of the external pressures which are being applied on the skull.
If symptoms of plagiocephaly are detected early enough, we recommend using the repositioning techniques which are listed in our repositioning guide. Repositioning has proved highly effective in treating babies with mild cases of plagiocephaly and will improve your baby’s head shape in around three out of four cases. If this form of treatment proves ineffective, a custom-made TiMband helmet can be used to use your baby’s natural growth to bring about correction.
We have been providing plagiocephaly treatment for babies for over a decade and have successfully treated thousands of babies at our clinics throughout the UK. Browse our website for more information or contact us to arrange a free consultation with one of our expert clinical orthotists if you are concerned that your baby may be showing signs of the condition.