Reduce The Risk Of Sudden Infant Death

Parents are being reminded about the importance of reducing the risk of sudden infant death, as a new survey commissioned by the Public Health Agency (PHA) shows that many adults are unaware of the main risk factors. The cause of sudden infant death syndrome is not known, but there are measures parents can take to reduce the risk of it happening.

Most of the respondents to the survey were unaware of the messages of the successful “back to sleep” campaign of the early 1990’s. Just 4% showed any awareness of “back to sleep”.

Emily Roberts, Designated Nurse for Safeguarding Children at the PHA, said: “The survey shows that despite 79% of people having an awareness of sudden infant death, there are very low levels of awareness of the risk factors.

“We need to increase everyone’s knowledge, including among relatives and friends who may help out with childcare, of the risk factors for sudden infant death.

“For example, the figures reveal that only 8% of those surveyed knew that co-sleeping on a sofa or an armchair was a main risk factor, and just 5% knew that a baby not sleeping in same room as parents for the first six months was another aspect of a child’s sleeping arrangements that could have an impact.”

Co-sleeping is a parent or carer sleeping on a bed, sofa or chair with an infant, and just a quarter (23%) knew that co-sleeping in general was a risk factor for sudden infant death. Far fewer knew that co-sleeping after taking alcohol (17%) or using drugs (12%) were key risks.

Emily continued: “It is very important that we remind people about the dangers of co-sleeping, particularly if sleeping on a sofa or armchair, or if adults who smoke or have taken alcohol or drugs (including medication) co-sleep with a baby.

“Based on the available scientific evidence it is recommended that the safest place for babies to sleep is in their own cot or moses basket in the parents’ room for the first six months.

“Place your baby on their back with feet touching the bottom of the cot. Use a light blanket that is no higher than the baby’s shoulders, or if using a baby sleeping bag make sure it’s fitted with neck and arm holes and doesn’t have a hood.

“Never sleep on an armchair or sofa with your baby as this is particularly risky and never allow anyone who has been smoking, drinking or taking drugs (including medication) to co sleep with your baby.

“It is also important to remember not to clutter your baby’s cot. Don’t put pillows, loose blankets, cot bumpers or sleep positioners in your baby’s cot.

“By following these steps as part of a sleep-time routine they’ll become second nature and help reduce the risk of sudden infant death.

“One of the most important things to remember is that if you have any questions, no matter how small or trivial you might think they are, talk your health visitor who can provide practical advice.”

Top Tips.

  • Put your baby in a moses basket or cot in your room for the first six months
  • Place your baby to sleep on their back in the ‘feet to foot’ position (feet touching the bottom of the cot)
  • Use a light blanket firmly tucked no higher than the baby’s shoulders and a clean, firm, well-fitting mattress
  • Don’t sleep with your baby on an armchair or sofa
  • Don’t allow your baby to share a bed with anyone who has been smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs (including medication)
  • Breastfeed if you can and put your baby back to sleep in their cot after feeding.

For a full list of advice visit:

Jenny Ward, Director of Services at The Lullaby Trust, said: “At The Lullaby Trust we advise that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in their own cot or moses basket in their parents’ bedroom until they are at least six months old.

“The risk of sudden infant death occurring increases when bed-sharing if you or your partner have drunk alcohol, smoked or taken drugs that make you drowsy, or if baby was premature or of low birth weight.

“It is also really important that you do not fall asleep with your baby on a sofa as this can increase the risk of sudden infant death significantly. If you think you might fall asleep, put the baby down in a safe place to sleep. If you are breastfeeding, have your partner stay up with you, breastfeed in a different position where you are confident you might not fall asleep, or feed the baby somewhere else.”

Key research results.

Awareness of risk factors for sudden infant death:

  • Baby getting too hot – 28%
  • Loose bedding – 26%
  • Co-sleeping – 23%
  • Baby sleeping on their front/tummy – 21%
  • Smoking by parents – 17%
  • Co-sleeping after alcohol taken – 17%
  • Smoking during pregnancy – 15%
  • Anyone smoking around baby – 13%
  • Co-sleeping after medications – 13%
  • Co-sleeping after using drugs – 12%
  • Co-sleeping when extremely tired – 9%
  • Co-sleeping on sofa/armchair – 8%
  • Baby not sleeping in same room as parents in first six months – 5%