Cot death causes and how to protect baby
Around 300 babies under the age of one die each year in the UK as a result of cot death. Find out more information about cot death below and how to protect your baby.
Cot death syndrome, also known as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is the sudden, unexpected death of a baby. A post-mortem examination will fail to find a cause of death as no single cause of the syndrome has been identified to date.
Most cot deaths occur in infants under the age of six months and despite the name given to the syndrome, can happen anywhere, not just whilst in a cot. Around 300 babies in the UK, aged under one, die each year as a result of cot death.
Boy babies are of slight increased risk of cot death, as are premature babies, babies born with a low birth weight, and babies whose parents smoke.
Although there is no way of preventing cot death from occurring, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk.
This picture shows a baby aged between 1 month and 6 months asleep. Can you identify eight things that may increase the risk of cot death?
- Nursery: This baby is sleeping in his own nursery. The safest place your baby can sleep in the first six months is in their own cot or crib in your bedroom. Research has shown that a baby who sleeps in their own nursery is twice as likely to die as a cot death than one who shares a bedroom with parents.
- Side sleeping: This baby is sleeping on his side. Babies should always sleep on their backs. It is unsafe to let your baby sleep on their front or sides and this can double the risk of cot death.
- Feet-to-foot: The baby is sleeping in the middle of the bed and not in the suggested feet-to-foot position. Baby should be placed at the bottom of the crib with his feet at the foot of the bed so he can’t wriggle down under the covers. If you find baby wriggling up and out of the covers, try a baby sleeping bag.
- Bed clothes: The bedding in this picture is loose and could easily cover baby’s head. Use lightweight covers and blankets for layering and tuck them in firmly, no higher than shoulder height. Watch for sweating, check the back of baby’s neck and tummy, and keep an eye on the room temperature to make sure baby doesn’t overheat.
- Pillow: There’s a pillow in this image. If your baby is under one year, never use a pillow, duvet or quilt.
- Hat: Babies need to lose excess heat from their heads so whenever they are indoors, on a bus or inside a shop, remove hats and excess clothing.
- Dummy: There is no dummy in baby’s mouth. Using a dummy every time you settle your baby to sleep – day and night – can reduce the risk of cot death. If you are breastfeeding, don’t give baby a dummy until they are one month old to ensure breastfeeding is well established.
- Radiator: The cot is positioned next to a radiator and under a window. Babies rarely need all night heating or especially warm rooms. Keep the cot away from radiators and out of direct sunlight. To monitor temperature, buy a simple room thermometer.
This picture also shows:
In the past, there were concerns that bumpers might make babies too hot, increasing the risk of cot death. However, research has shown that they have neither good nor bad effects. Take it out when your baby can get up on her hands and knees so she can’t climb out. Make sure there are no trailing strings or ties.
Although not in the picture, smoking near baby is a major risk factor of cot death.
This second illustration shows how baby should sleep to reduce the risk of cot death.
Reduce the risk of cot death
- Place your baby on their back to sleep (and not on the front or side)
- Cut smoking in pregnancy — dads too! And don’t let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
- The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib or cot in a room with you for the first six months
- Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair
- Do not let your baby get too hot, and keep your baby’s head uncovered
For more information on cot death and how to protect your baby, please visit the cot death charity, FSID.
Illustration: Julie Anderson
Photography: Janine @Flickr