- Parents ‘must be better informed’ of the risk of sudden infant death (SIDS)
- Study by the American Academy of Paediatrics found around half of U.S. infants still sleep with ‘potentially hazardous bedding’
- Teenage mothers were most likely to use ‘dangerous’ bedding, experts say
- Loose blankets, quilts, pillows and soft toys can obstruct a baby’s airways
- Experts advise using a firmly tucked in sheet, or baby sleeping bag
- SIDS was the cause of 2,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2010, the study found
Half of babies are at risk of suffocating in their sleep because they are put in cots with unsafe bedding, blankets and pillows.
Parents must be better informed, experts said today, after a study revealed ‘too many babies’ are still at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Sleeping with loose bedding or soft objects poses a risk of suffocation in babies, especially those under the age of one.
Half of babies born in the U.S. are at risk of suffocating in their sleep because they sleep with ‘potentially hazardous bedding’, the American Academy of Paediatrics found (file picture)
Although the use of blankets and other bedding has declined, around half of U.S. infants are still placed to sleep with ‘potentially hazardous bedding’, according to the study by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP).
Experts investigated the type of bedding chosen by parents from 1993 to 2010, from the National Infant Sleep Position study.
Blankets, quilts and pillows can obstruct a baby’s airway and, if they become caught over a child’s head, they can cause suffocation.
The AAP advises parents to put their babies to sleep in a cot with no loose bedding or soft objects, including cuddly toys, under or over the infant.
That is not to say babies should risk feeling cold in the night.
Instead, experts advise using a firmly tucked in sheet, or a baby sleeping bag.
Lucy McKeon, research and information manager at The Lullaby Trust said: ‘We know the safest sleeping environment for a baby is on its back in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as a parent for the first six months of life.
‘We advise parents not to use loose bedding, pillows, cot bumpers or have soft toys in the cot – this is because some of these items cause an accident risk and others increase the chance of SIDS occurring.
‘This new study suggests parents are using loose bedding which is considered less safe than well-fitted blankets or a baby sleep bag.
Experts advise babies are not put to sleep with any loose quilts, pillows, blankets or cot bumpers. The concern is the bedding can obstruct a baby’s airways in their sleep (file picture)
THINGS PARENTS SHOULD DO:
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep
- Keep your baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth
- Place your baby to sleep in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months
- Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition (Source: The Lullaby Trust)
THINGS PARENTS SHOULD AVOID:
- Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
- Don’t sleep in the same bed as your baby if you smoke, drink or take drugs or are extremely tired, if your baby was born prematurely or was of low birth-weight
- Avoid letting your baby get too hot
- Don’t cover your baby’s face or head while sleeping or use loose bedding, such as quilts, blankets, pillows or cot bumpers
Parents are advised to remove any soft toys from a baby’s cot before putting them to sleep, for fear of the toys suffocating the baby (file picture)
WHAT IS SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME?
Sudden infant death syndrome describes the unexpected death of a baby or toddler that is initially unexplained.
Cot death was a term commonly used in the past. It has largely been abandoned, due to misleading suggestions that sudden infant death can only occur when a baby is asleep in a cot.
Causes of SIDS may include accidents, infections, congenital abnormality or metabolic disorder.
For those deaths that remain unexplained, experts believe there are likely to be undiscovered causes.
- While sudden infant syndrome deaths have declined in recent years, they still totalled around 2,000 deaths in the U.S. 2010. 221 unexplained infant deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2012 – a rate of 0.30 deaths per 1,000 live births
- almost three quarters (71 per cent) of these unexplained deaths were recorded as sudden deaths, and 29 per cent were recorded as unascertained
- eight out of 10 unexplained infant deaths occurred in the post-neonatal period, between 28 days and one year
- almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of unexplained infant deaths were boys in 2012 (141 deaths)
- the rate of unexplained infant deaths was three times higher among low birthweight babies, than those with a normal birthweight
Source: The Lullaby Trust and Office for National Statistics
‘It’s important that parents are given all the information about safer sleep so that they can make an informed decision. Evidence-based advice is available on The Lullaby Trust website, http://www.lullabytrust.org.uk.’
Using a pillow has been shown to increase the chance of SIDS by up to 2.5 times, the charity said.
‘A simple mattress in your cot with no loose bedding or bumpers is the safest sleeping place for a baby,’ the trust advises.
Although uncommon accidental suffocation is the leading cause of injury-related deaths in infants.
While sudden infant syndrome deaths have declined in recent years, they still totalled around 2,000 deaths in the U.S. 2010.
The suffocation rate doubled from 2000 to 2010, when around 640 infants died from accidental sleep-related suffocation, U.S. government data showed.
Meanwhile, in the UK in 2012, 221 infant deaths were attributed to SIDS.
The team of researchers found that over the 17-year period, the use of loose bedding did decline but remained a common practise.
The rate of loose bedding use averaged around 86 per cent in 1993 to 1995, but declined to 55 per cent in 2008 to 2010.
Teenage mothers were found to be most likely to use the dangerous bedding (83.5 per cent), while those babies born at full term were least at risk (55.6 per cent).
The study also found the at-risk bedding was most likely used for infants who slept in adult beds, those put to sleep on their sides, or babies who shared a cot or bed with others.
The authors concluded that while the numbers have improved significantly, babies are ‘still being put to bed in an unsafe sleeping environment; about half still sleep with blankets, quilts, pillows and other hazardous items’.
Study co-author Marian Willinger, a SIDS expert at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said these infant deaths ‘are tragic and they’re just not necessary’.
The AAP said it is vital parents ‘know and understand the risk factors associated with this dangerous practise in order to help reduce the number of sleep-related infant deaths’.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. analysed telephone surveys involving a total of nearly 20,000 parents.
The study was published today in the journal Pediatrics.