Safe sleep warning as cot deaths rise

Experts underline importance of not letting babies overheat while they sleep

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In a nutshell

There has been a slight increase in the number of cot deaths in England and Wales and, as the biggest rise in these deaths was in the winter, safe-sleep experts are reminding us not to wrap up our babies so well in cold weather that they overheat in their sleep.

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So what are the facts?

Even though there has been a steady decline in cot deaths since 2008 to 2012, in 2013 the numbers of cot deaths had risen again. There were 249 unexplained infant deaths in 2013, which works out as 0.36 deaths per 1,000 babies born. 

The highest percentage of these babies died in February –  the coldest month of the year – which was 3 times as many as in the same month in 2012 and double the average figure over the previous 3 years. There is, therefore, a suggestion in the report that the use of extra clothing or blankets, and central heating at night might be to blame.

SIDS, also known as cot death, is rare, and the risk of a baby dying from it remains low. But it’s worth knowing that babies aged 0 to 4 months old, premature babies, low birth-weight babies and boys seem to be more at risk of SIDS than others. 

What the experts say

Taking about the ONS report, The Lullaby Trust’s Chief Executive, Francine Bates says, “Sudden infant death is devastating for families and we are deeply concerned to see that the number of unexplained deaths has risen in 2013, the first increase in five years.

“Parents need to be aware, in all months of the year, of the importance of checking babies to ensure they are not “overheating – particularly from extra layers of bedding.

Babies need a cooler room than most people might assume.”

The Lullaby Trust recommends a room temperature of 16 to 20°C, with light bedding or a lightweight well-fitting baby sleeping bag that is comfortable and safe for sleeping babies. It also suggests you buy a room thermometer so that you can monitor the temperature in your baby’s room.

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