Q&A: Cot death worries
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
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