Every parent fears cot death (also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Although the exact causes are not known, the following pointers could lessen the risk of a tragedy happening:
- Put your baby on the back to sleep. The prone (face down) sleeping position should be avoided; from birth infants should be put to sleep on their sides or back, unless there are specific indications against this. Sleeping on their backs appears to be preferable to side sleeping, because of the greater likelihood of the infant rolling face down when on the side.
- Make sure your baby’s head remains uncovered during sleep and avoid overheating and tight wrapping.
- Keep your baby smoke free – before birth and after. Mothers should be warned of the dangers of smoking and drug taking.
- Cover the mattress with polythene sheeting. Many new mattresses are fitted with such covering; used mattresses should be wrapped in a sheet of thick polythene (125 microns) which is folded and taped underneath. The evidence for toxic gases is still incomplete, but the practice has been shown to be safe, and is recommended in the UK and New Zealand. The best underblanket to use on a wrapped mattress is fleecy cotton.
- You should sleep in the same room as your baby. To lessen the risk of cot death it may be safer for the infant to sleep in the parent’s room.
- It would also seem entirely reasonable biologically for the young infant to sleep in close proximity to its mother, and perhaps this is actually protective.