SIDS is short for ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’ which used to be called ‘cot death’. It means the sudden, unexpected death of a baby from no known cause. SIDS is the most common cause of death in babies between one month and one year of age. Most babies who die of SIDS are under six months with more babies dying of SIDS in winter than in summer.
It is still not clear what causes SIDS. Some factors are thought to work together to reduce the risk of SIDS, but they may or may not help prevent any one SIDS death.
There are four main ways to reduce the risk of SIDS
Sleeping on the back reduces the risk of SIDS. The chance of babies dying from SIDS is greater if they sleep on their tummies or sides. Put your baby on the back to sleep, from birth, unless your doctor or nurse tells you otherwise. Healthy babies placed to sleep on the back are less likely to choke on vomit than tummy sleeping infants.
Tummy play is safe and good for babies when they are awake and an adult is present. But remember not to put baby on the tummy to sleep.
Baby-sitters and others who care for your baby may not know that tummy or side sleeping increases the risk of SIDS. Explain this to them before you leave your baby in their care.
Older babies in the cot can turn over and move around the cot. Put them on the back but let them find their own sleeping position. The risk of SIDS in babies over six months is extremely low.
Be careful to ensure your baby’s face and head stay uncovered during sleep as this decreases the risk of SIDS.
A good way to do this is to put baby’s feet at the bottom of the cot, so that baby can’t slip down under the blankets. You might decide not to use blankets at all and instead, use a safe baby sleeping bag: one with fitted neck and arm holes.
When baby is put to sleep, check that:
Taking baby into an adult bed may be unsafe if baby:
Cigarette smoke harms babies before birth and after. Parents who smoke during pregnancy and after the baby is born increase the risk of SIDS for their baby. In fact, if mother smokes, the risk of SIDS doubles, and if father smokes too, the risk doubles again.
There is an increased risk of SIDS if parents are smokers, even if they smoke outside, away from the baby. If mothers who smoke bed share with their babies; the risk of SIDS is increased. The reasons for this are not clear. However, we do know that being a non-smoker or smoking less will reduce the risk for your baby.
Try not to let anyone smoke near your baby – not in the house, the car or anywhere else your baby spends time.
If you want to quit smoking and you’re not finding it easy, ask for help. Call the Quitline on 131 848 or ask your doctor, midwife or child health nurse for information and advice.
Does the cot meet Australian Standards?
All new and secondhand cots sold in Australia must meet the Australian Standard for Cots (AS 2172) and will carry a label to say so.
Old or secondhand cots may be dangerous for the following reasons:
Babies can become trapped in a tilted rocking – cot or cradle. If you have a cradle or cot that rocks and has a locking pin, make sure you secure the locking pin firmly in place whenever you leave your baby, and double check it to make sure the cradle cannot move when you are not there to supervise.
Note – Portable or ‘porta’ cots
Use the firm, clean, well-fitting mattress that is supplied with the portable cot. Don’t add additional padding under the mattress as baby can get trapped face down in gaps created between the mattress and the cot wall. There is a separate Australian Standard that is used for all portable cots. The portable cot Australian Standard is AS 2195 and portable cots that meet the standard carry a label to say so.
Always look for the Australian Standard for Cots before you buy a cot.
If you are planning to use a secondhand cot, check that it meets the standard. For a guide to cot and nursery furniture safety, visit the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) website for the publication Keeping Baby Safe: a guide to nursery furniture.
Is the cot mattress the right size for the cot, and is it firm and clean?
A toddler or baby can get stuck in gaps between the mattress and the cot sides. This is especially dangerous if their face is trapped and covered, or their neck is restricted in any way. Make sure there is no more than a 25mm (1inch) gap between the mattress and the cot sides and ends.
Remove pillows, quilts, doonas, duvets and lambskins from the cot
The following are things to look out for and avoid where your toddler or baby sleeps – both during the night and for any daytime naps.
Remember to look for these things in your own home and anywhere your child is cared for – including day care, childcare centres and the homes of family and friends.
1. An unsupervised adult bed may be unsafe for babies or toddlers if they:
2. Soft sleeping places where a toddler’s or baby’s face may get covered:
3. Dangling cords or string
4. Heaters and electrical appliances
5. Prams, strollers and bouncers where restraints are not done up
The information above has been provided by SIDS and Kids Australia and provides an over view of safe sleeping practices that you should follow.