Q&A: Cot death wor­ries

Your Baby & Toddler - - The Dossier - Dr Ger­rit de Vil­liers Pae­di­a­tri­cian

Q: I am so wor­ried about pos­si­ble cot death. I did a lot of re­search and no­ticed that the sta­tis­tics re­ally dif­fer from coun­try to coun­try. Why is this so? How can I pro­tect my baby?

A:Dr Ger­rit de Vil­liers an­swers:

Cot death, or sud­den in­fant death syn­drome (Sids) is the in­ex­pli­ca­ble death of an os­ten­si­bly healthy baby of un­der 12 months old who dies in his sleep and a cause of death can­not be es­tab­lished. All par­ents fear this, but for­tu­nately it is very rare.

In­ci­dences dif­fer across the world. In the USA more than 2 000 ba­bies die per year due to cot death and in the UK more than 200. In South Africa there were 491 cases in the year 2000. It is dif­fi­cult to pin­point ex­act num­bers in South Africa be­cause often there is no ac­cess to proper pae­di­atric in­ves­tiga­tive ser­vices af­ter the death to es­tab­lish the cause of death.

Sids oc­curs most in ba­bies be­tween two and four months of age. It is more com­mon among boys, pre­ma­ture ba­bies and ba­bies with a low birth weight. Par­ents who smoke (even away from baby) also in­crease the risk and ba­bies who sleep on their tum­mies are also at greater risk. The risk is also higher when the mother is young and has older chil­dren.

The rea­sons for why the in­ci­dence dif­fers so from coun­try to coun­try are very dif­fi­cult to es­tab­lish. Many the­o­ries about causes have been in­ves­ti­gated and many coun­tries have im­ple­mented pro­grams to di­min­ish the risks. The most suc­cess­ful of th­ese has been baby’s sleep­ing po­si­tion: ba­bies should sleep on their backs.

In New Zealand in­ci­dences of cot death were halved by rais­ing aware­ness of four mes­sages: • Let your baby sleep on his back. • Avoid cig­a­rette smok­ing in your house and don’t smoke while you are preg­nant. If you are a smoker or smoked dur­ing preg­nancy, let your baby sleep in his own bed. Breast­feed your baby. An­other fac­tor which could play a role is a room that is too warm and a baby that is too warm while he sleeps. The ideal room tem­per­a­ture is about 18º C.

Don’t share a bed with your baby if you or your part­ner used al­co­hol or med­i­ca­tion that causes drowsi­ness, or if you are so tired that you will have dif­fi­culty re­act­ing to your baby.

Us­ing a dummy dur­ing bed­time can play a pro­tec­tive role. YB

Bar­bie Dream Big Cush­ion, R130 Mr Price Home

Dis­ney Princess’ Be Amaz­ing Range Royal Shim­mer Doll, R199.90, Toy King­dom

What the Lady­bird Heard on Hol­i­day by Ju­lia Don­ald­son (Pan­macmil­lan), R211, loot.co.za

NUK Sil­i­cone Sum­mer­time Soothers Size 1 Twin Pack, R138, avail­able at baby stores

NUK Cool­ing Teething Ring, R150, avail­able at baby stores

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