What is SIDS?
The question “What is SIDS?” and most importantly “How can we prevent SIDS?” are commonly asked and googled amongst concerned parents across the globe.
Getting your baby to sleep and stay asleep is not always easy! In fact, if you’re anything like me, this is something that has been a constant up hill battle! Add the extra concern of SIDS to the mix and you may feel overwhelmed with worry! But what is SIDS? Most importantly, how can it be prevented?
So, what is SIDS? SIDS or ‘cot death’ refers to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and it is when a baby (normally up until the age of 12 months) dies suddenly in their sleep for no reason and with no obvious signs or symptoms! Terrifying right!?
With so much information available online, so many sleep schedules and products that claim to help prevent SIDS, knowing what is right is a challenge! The first step here is asking the right questions: what is SIDS? What are the statistics? How can we prevent SIDS in our homes?
According to the data – “198 unexplained infant deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2018, a rate of 0.30 deaths per 1,000 live births”. Another important statistic to note – “Most SIDS deaths happen in babies between 1 month and 4 months of age, and the majority (90%) of SIDS deaths happen before a baby reaches 6 months of age”.
The SIDS statistics are obviously concerning! As parents we are always worried about pretty much everything – from whether our child is eating enough, sleeping enough, meeting their milestones, safe, happy and comfortable…
Infant death is a horrible thought and something that nobody wants to think about. Putting our baby to sleep safely is the first step in prevention.
How can SIDS be prevented?
So, what is SIDS? How can it be prevented? What measures can we put in place to help our baby sleep safely at night? We’ve briefly identified what Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is, but now the most important question is, how can we prevent it?
Unfortunately, SIDS cannot be 100% prevented. This is not what you want to hear – I know! There are however a number of things that you can do to reduce the risks and put your mind at ease.
It is only after many many many hours of not sleeping, worrying about SIDS, research, paying huge amounts of money on sleep consultants, sleep schedules and products, that we know what worked best for us. Our little girl is now 19 months old, sleeps like a dream and is safe doing it.
So, now we have answered the question ‘What is SIDS?’ – What can you do as caregivers to help your baby sleep safely?
What is SIDS? Baby care basics
This two-minute clip offers a brief overview of what is SIDS and some basics to SIDS prevention. Start here and then read on for some more detailed understanding about what is SIDS and how we can keep our little ones as safe as possible.
Create the right sleep environment for SIDS prevention
Sleepwear, Temperature and Bedding
Ensuring your little one is snuggly, safe and comfortable for sleep is vital to helping them and you get a good night’s rest safely.
Your baby should be in comfortable sleepwear, including a vest and onesie (depending on the temperature of the room) which is breathable and comfortable.
As well as having the right nightwear, make sure to keep bedding firm and extra blankets, cushions and soft toys away from your little one as they sleep. We opt for sleep bags for our little girl and find they give her the warmth, comfort and safety she needs for a good and safe night’s sleep.
Keeping the room at the correct temperature is again very important. The optimal temperature for your baby is around 18 degrees celsius. Of course, the temperature of the room is not always easy to control, especially in the depths of the winter months or the heat of the summer! When the room is too cold or too warm, make sure your baby is dressed appropriately.
Here are our favourite items to ensure our little one is comfortable and more importantly safe at night!
Guidance from the Gro Company
Have a look at the chart below for some up to date guidance on how to dress your child at night to prevent overheating and thus helping to prevent SIDS. The question of what to wear very much depends on the temperature of the room, the bedding and the type of clothing you have available.
The chart below is key when thinking about what is SIDS and SIDS prevention! Looking at the chart you can see the different togs – these refer to the sleeping bag pictures above. Working from left to right, 3.5 is the thickest tog and should only be used in the case that the child’s bedroom has fallen below 16 degrees celsius. In this case, the child should be dressed in either an all in one sleepsuit (without quilted sleeves) or if very cold, a short sleeved cotton bodysuit with the all in one sleepsuit as a second layer.
As you work your way across, the 2.5 tog is slightly lighter and ideal for temperatures between 20 degrees and 16 degrees (with the correct layering underneath). Our daughter’s room is usually between 16 and 19 degrees celsius, so she is normally in her 2.5 tog, unless the weather dramatically drops or it is in the peak of summer.
The 1.0 tog would be suitable for warmer temperatures (between 23 degrees and 20 degrees) and finally, the 0.5 tog is ideal for those warmer days (24 to 27 degrees). In warmer weather, sometimes a sleeping bag is not even necessary – after all, it is best for your child to be slightly too cool than too warm! If your child’s room is still too warm, try to leave a window (if safe to do so) slightly open to bring in some fresh air or even place a fan in the room (not facing your child directly) to circulate the air overnight
Place your baby to sleep on their back
Although having the right sleep environment is probably one of the most important things to consider when thinking about SIDS prevention, it is also vital to place your baby on their back when they are sleeping.
Once your little one gets to around 6 months and can roll over, this becomes slightly more difficult and although you may put them on their back when they go down initially, you may find they have done a complete u-turn by the morning. Don’t panic about this!
Likewise, if like our little girl, your baby enjoys an occasional nap on their side, just make sure that you are there to supervise and that they are able to breath comfortably. Check that the surroundings are clear from loose bedding, stuffed animals etc and be vigilant as your little one sleeps.
The position your baby sleeps in is important, but at times can be difficult to control. So just do your best to always place your baby on their back initially and that the sleep environment is right. During the day, give your baby plenty of opportunity for tummy time so that they strengthen their tummy muscles and are able to move themselves in to safe positions for sleep as they get older.
This cute camera is ideal for keeping a close eye on your little one when they move to their own room. The quality is superb and it alerts you if your baby is moving , crying etc
This next-to-me crib is perfect to give you the co-sleeping experience with the safety of giving baby their own space. Ideal for the first 6 months.
Avoid co-sleeping where possible
Although it is very tempting to snuggle up with your newborn in bed, nuzzle up tight and co-sleep… it is important to note that co-sleeping with your baby can increase the risk of SIDS quite dramatically.
For breastfeeding mums, co-sleeping sometimes feels like the only option (I’ve been there) and I remember those nights with such fondness. It can be ok to co-sleep IF you take the appropriate precautions and are aware of the risks.
Regardless of all the warnings, I co-slept with my daughter in the initial months and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We had such precious moments and as a breast feeding mum, it made sense for us. It does however come with risks, so please watch the video below from The Lullaby Trust for some tips on how to do so as safely as possible.
Breastfeed and offer a dummy / pacifier
It has been proven that breastfeeding for a minimum of 2 months may halve the risk of SIDS! The longer you breastfeed, the lower the risk! Good news right!?
As well as breast milk being full of nutritional goodness for your baby, the Department of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics, both recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed for at least six months and that breastfeeding is continued, with the addition of appropriate weaning foods, for as long as the mother and baby want.
The pacifier or dummy is also known to reduce the risk of SIDS, especially when used at night. We didn’t offer our little girl a dummy throughout the day however she used it at night until she was around 8 months. I know some people are concerned about ruining their child’s teeth or forming bad habits / sleep associations. But if the dummy is limited to sleeping time only your little one will quickly learn that this is for bed time only.
Need some help?
There is so much support available for any mothers who are struggling on their breastfeeding journey, so please do seek help if you need a little support.
Have a read of ‘Knowing What’s Best For Your Little One’ if you’re undecided on whether breastfeeding is right for you.
There’s no wrong or right answer here – ultimately the choice is yours.
Keep your baby away from second hand smoke
It has been proven that second hand smoking has a detrimental impact on children.
According to the NHS:
“Pregnant women exposed to passive smoke are more prone to premature birth and their baby is more at risk of low birthweight and cot death. And children who live in a smoky house are at higher risk of breathing problems, asthma, and allergies.”
So, if you do smoke yourself please try to limit this around your child. Keep your home and car smoke free zones and ensure that clothes are clean and smoke free before caring for your baby. Taking steps like smoking outdoors only and cutting down the number of cigarettes per day will make differences to your child’s health and risk of developing SIDS.
Extras to help your baby sleep well
We have looked at SIDS prevention and different things we can do as parents to minimise the risk as much as possible. But when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, SIDS isn’t the only worry.
There are many other reasons why parents have issues around baby’s and their sleep. For more information have a read of ‘Why your baby won’t sleep at night’ and ‘What is the 4 month sleep regression and how to beat it?’
White noise, black out blinds and favourite books
Once the risk of SIDS has been minimized by taking the steps outlined above, why not try to make your baby’s space as comfortable and sleep-inducing as possible?
We love these products including ‘Ewan the sheep’, ‘Tommee Tippee GroClock’ and this ‘White Noise Machine’. White noise has been proven to replicate the sound of the mother’s womb and provides a soothing and secure space for your child to sleep well. It also forms strong sleep associations, so when your little one hears the noise, they begin to connect this sound with bedtime.
Having a bedtime storybook as part of your nightly routine is a wonderful way to bond with your baby, instil a love of reading from a young age, form positive sleep associations and let your child know bedtime is coming. Our favourites are below and make a crucial part of our nighttime routine!
Having a familiar comfort object for your little one will not only help them drift off to sleep snuggling up to their favourite cuddly, but will also ease their uneasiness if they wake in the middle of the night and need some form of security. WARNING – do not allow them to sleep with this until at least 12 months. Up until this age, I would put them near by (but out of reach).
Our little girl has many a cuddly toy, however these are by far her favourites! They are incredibly soft and give her the comfort and security she needs. I’m planning on keeping these as beautiful little keep sakes as she grows.
Safe sleep training
When it comes to sleep, many people swear by some form of sleep training to get their little one to sleep through the night. We opted for a different approach (after many sleepless nights and attempting the Ferber method)! Instead, we went for a no cry approach and have created our very own day and night schedule which actually works for our daughter and the majority of people who use it! Obviously, every child is different, but from feedback so far – it works!
As well as a consistent approach to sleep we have found that creating the right sleep environment is vital to lull our little one in to a deep, peaceful and safe slumber. Ensuring the room is the correct temperature, that your little one is dressed appropriately, laid on their back, that the correct bedding is used, the the brightness and level of white noise, comfort objects and safe and comfortable sleeping products will really help.
Summary - what is SIDS?
So, what is SIDS? I hope you’ve got some of the answers you need in this post and have seen a few ideas on how best to prevent it in your home.
Remember, we can’t guarantee anything – however as parents we can implement things that can minimise the risks of SIDS.
- Create the right sleep environment for SIDS prevention
- Place your baby to sleep on their back
- Avoid co-sleeping where possible
- Breastfeed and offer a dummy/pacifier
- Keep your baby away from second hand smoke
If you’re interested in more of our parenting posts you might like ‘Why your baby won’t sleep at night’, ‘What is the 4 month sleep regression and how to beat it?’ , ‘12 things to know about being a mum in year 1′ and much more!