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Cot death: what is it and how do we reduce the risk?

Cot death, an expression that in recent years has been replaced with the more accurate term of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), refers to the sudden and unexplained death of a baby where no obvious cause is found after a detailed post mortem


It is rare, but on average it still claims the lives of five babies every week in the UK*. Doctors and researchers don’t yet understand what causes babies to die suddenly and unexpectedly, but a great deal is now known about how to reduce the risk.

Dad Info’s ten golden rules will help you to reduce the risk…

Ten tips to reduce the risk

1. Always place your baby on their back to sleep.

2. No smoking during pregnancy and after birth – that goes for mum, dad and visitors. Make sure that your house is always smoke-free and keep baby away from smoke when out and about.

3. Don’t let your baby get too hot – young babies cannot cool themselves down easily!

4. Don’t cover your baby’s face and head when sleeping – your baby doesn’t need a hat when indoors.

5. Place your baby in the feet-to-foot position, where their little feet touch the bottom of the cot, to prevent them from wriggling under the covers in their sleep.

6. Breastfeed your baby, if you can.

7. Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition.

8. Don’t sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby – this can increase the chance of SIDS by up to 50 times!

9. Don’t sleep in the same bed as your baby if you smoke, drink or have taken drugs, or if your baby was born prematurely or was of low birth weight. If you decide that sharing a bed with your baby is the right decision for you and your family, make sure that you research bed-sharing thoroughly and are able to do it safely by removing anything that can become a suffocation hazard for your baby and by ensuring that your baby cannot fall off the bed or become trapped anywhere.

10. Place your baby to sleep in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months. Sharing a room with your baby can halve the risk of SIDS. Although it’s true that approximately 90% of babies whose death is recorded as SIDS are under 6 months of age, sadly, every year a small amount of older babies and toddlers also die suddenly and unexpectedly. To avoid accidents, don’t forget to remove all pillows, soft bedding, cot bumpers and soft toys from the cot.

Remember to follow the 10 golden tips for all naps too, not just for night time sleep.

If you have any further questions about SIDS and how to lower the chances of it happening, you can always get in touch with your midwife, Health Visitor or with The Lullaby Trust, who offer information and support to families about safer sleep for babies.

*Credit: Office of National Statistics, 2015, via

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