Simple mistake by parents puts babies at risk of suffocation

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Parents could unknowingly be putting their babies at danger of suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a charity has warned.

Bouncers and swings have long been popular items designed to sooth and relax tots.

But the Lullaby Trust said evidence suggests that sleeping a baby on anything other than a firm, flat surface can increase the risk of SIDS, also known as cot death.

Letting babies sleep in an inclined or sitting position make it easier for their heads to flop forward, leading to their delicate airways becoming restricted.

The trust recommends placing a baby down to sleep on their backs, and ensuring their face is clear, with no loose bedding or padded sides.

Bouncers and swings have long been popular items designed to sooth and relax tots. But the Lullaby Trust said evidence suggests that sleeping a baby on anything other than a firm, flat surface can increase the risk of SIDS, also known as cot death

The charity, which works to raise awareness of SIDS, found seven in 10 new parents allowed their baby to sleep in a bouncer.

More than two thirds (67 per cent) of the 1,000 Brits surveyed also permitted swings, while 61 per cent allowed bean bags.

Eight per cent even admitted to leaving their baby in the items to sleep overnight.

Jenny Ward, chief executive of The Lullaby Trust, said: ‘Babies are safest sleeping on their back on a clear, flat, firm sleep surface, like a cot or Moses basket.

‘This not only helps to reduce the risk of SIDS but also helps to keep a baby’s airway open and clear.’

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‘We know that babies can and do fall asleep in places not designed for them to sleep in.

‘Many parents find products like baby bouncers and swings useful for when their baby is awake and supervised, but they are not suitable for babies to sleep in.’

SIDS, when a healthy baby dies of an unexpected and unexplained reason, claims the lives of around three babies per week every year, according to the Lullaby Trust.

Nine in ten deaths (89 per cent) happen in the tot’s first six months of life.

The exact cause remains unknown but risk factors include unsafe sleeping, overheating and smoking while pregnant.

To reduce the risk of SIDS the NHS advises parents always place babies on their back when they sleep.

Their feet should touch the end of their cot, basket or pram with their head uncovered and their blanket tucked in no higher than their shoulders.

Parents are also advised to have their newborn sleep in the same room as them for the first six months.

Ms Ward added: ‘All parents must be made aware of how to protect their baby’s airway, especially when they’re asleep.

‘If a baby falls asleep in an item that keeps them propped in a sitting position, like a swing or bouncer, it’s best to move them onto a clear, firm, flat surface to help keep their airway open.

‘Even if a baby is awake, it’s still important to make sure their head is not tipped forwards and their nose and mouth are not covered to keep their airway clear and protect their breathing.’

The charity’s warning also coincides with Safer Sleep Week, its national campaign running from March 11 to March 17.

WHAT IS COT DEATH AND HOW CAN IT BE PREVENTED?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), or cot death, is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby.

SIDS kills around 3,400 babies in the US and about 200 in the UK every year.

It usually occurs within the first six months of an infant’s life and is more common in those born prematurely or of a low birth weight.

The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, however, it is associated with tobacco smoke, tangled bedding, co-sleeping with parents and breathing obstructions.

Parents can help reduce the risk of SIDS by:

Placing sleeping babies on their backsKeeping babies’ heads uncoveredSleeping in the same room as babies for the first six months of their livesUsing a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in babies’ cribsBreastfeeding, if possible

Do not:

Smoke during pregnancy or in the same room as a babySleep on a bed or chair with an infantAllow babies to get too hot or cold. Temperatures between 16 and 20C should be comfortable

Source: NHS Choices