Why do some babies die suddenly in their sleep?

Why do some babies die suddenly in their sleep?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or cot death is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of a baby in the first year. This usually occurs during sleep and the cause is unknown. It most commonly affects babies in the first 6 months. Luckily, SIDS is not common in Hong Kong. It affects 1 to 3 out of every 10,000 babies. Even the experts cannot predict which babies will die from SIDS, but studies show that there are some effective ways to reduce the risks of SIDS.

How can I reduce the risk of SIDS?

Safe environment and sleeping position can reduce the risk of SIDS.

  1. Always place your baby to sleep on the back. It is 6 times safer to sleep on the back than on the front and twice than sideway.
  2. Maintain a smoke-free environment. If both parents are non-smokers during the pregnancy period and before baby reaches 1 year old, the risks of SIDS will be reduced by half.
  3. Your baby should sleep with you in the same room but in a separate cot near your bed.
  4. Place your baby on a firm sleeping surface. Use a firm and well-fitted mattress. Never place your baby to sleep on a quilt, pillow, sheepskin or beanbag.
  5. Avoid soft objects and loose bedding where your baby is sleeping such as pillows, fluffy blankets or duvets, pillow-like bumpers or soft toys.
  6. Make sure your baby’s face is always clear and not being covered during sleep. Baby’s face and head are important for breathing and cooling.
  7. Avoid letting your baby get too hot. Do not overheat or overdress your baby with the covers. Remember to keep the room well-ventilated with temperature comfortable for a lightly clothed baby.

Moreover, make sure your baby is fully immunized. Recent evidence has shown that immunization can reduce the risk of SIDS. Furthermore, breastfeeding will also have direct protective effect against SIDS.

Why should I not share a bed with my baby so I can take care of him?

Baby sleeping with you in the same room can facilitate you monitor your baby’s condition, but bed sharing can be unsafe for him. As soft mattresses, loose bedding or large soft pillows are used in the parents’ bed, these may cover baby’s face or head when he rolls onto his front. Parents may have reduced awareness when they are very tired or sick, after drinking alcohol or taking medications. Therefore, you should let your baby sleep in his own cot, placed in your room instead.