Cot death is a terrible event for every parent. It means that a seemingly healthy baby suddenly dies without there being a cause for it. Cot death Fortunately, less and less occurs in the Netherlands, but still every year between 10 and 15 babies die in this way. And of course that is too much. In this blog more information about cot death and what you can do to prevent cot death as well as possible.
What is cot death?
Cot death is also called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Literally translated, this means: The syndrome of sudden death of an infant. The baby was apparently healthy and without any apparent cause it died. Although there are indications that certain factors may increase the risk of cot death, there is never a physical cause. The term 'cot death' is used because it almost always happens during sleep. This can be during the day or at night.
Cot death to what age?
There is cot death when it comes to a baby between 3 weeks and a year old. But unfortunately the sudden death of a healthy child also occurs in the second year of life. Every year it is estimated that 1 to 5 children in the Netherlands. Cot death is most common in the period between 2 and 6 months old.
Cot death cause
There is still a lot of uncertainty about the cause of cot death. However, there are certain factors that may increase the risk of cot death.
If a baby is lying on his or her belly, it may happen that he or she is lying straight down with the head. This closes the nose and mouth so that the baby does not get air. In addition, a prone position can also result in rebreathing.
This means that the baby is lying close to the mattress with the mouth and breathing his or her own breath again. This breath contains hardly any oxygen but mainly CO2. Finally, the prone position can also cause heat stress.
Your baby's head has the function to regulate body temperature. Babies can lose heat through their heads. But when the baby is lying on the belly or with the head under a duvet or blanket has come, the release of heat is difficult.
It even seems that the heat loss is 60% less in babies lying on the stomach. If your baby is too hot, the stimulus threshold is increased during REM sleep. The result is apnea (breathing stops during sleep). Apnea can contribute to cot death.
Unsafe bed material:
Research has shown that the use of duvets makes the risk of cot death four times as great. Duvets insulate as many as 3 to 4 thin blankets. Because of this good insulation, a duvet quickly causes heat stress.
According to the basic safety requirements, the spindle length should be at least 4.5 centimeters and at most 6.5 centimeters. Many beds deviate from this and have a greater spindle length so that the baby can slide through it easier and hangs with the head between the bars.
Soft mattress and / or a mattress that has little or no air permeability.
Prevent cot death
Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely eliminate the risk of cot death. The good news is that following the advice below the chance of sudden cot death can be prevented to a large extent.
Let your child sleep on his back
Since 1987 it was recommended to have children sleep on their backs and the number of children who died from SIDS dropped sharply. Let your child sleep on his back from birth. Never on the stomach and not in the lying position. From the side position, babies can easily turn on the stomach. Infants of 3 months can turn from the back to the abdomen (secondary prone position).
Try to turn back your child as much as possible or make sure that turning is difficult. For example, by placing your baby in a sleeping bag, baking it, or making the bed tight and short. During the day you can let your baby sleep under the supervision so that your child can practice motor skills. If your baby is able to roll smoothly from belly to back and from back to belly, you can have your baby determine the sleeping position yourself.
Make sure your baby is not too hot
To prevent heat stress or heat build-up, it is very important that you do not put your baby too hot in bed. Make sure in the first instance that the temperature in the nursery is between 16 and 18 degrees. Do not choose a duvet, but a sleeping bag, blankets or sheets. If you opt for blankets or sheets, make sure you plug them in properly and that your baby is lying against the edge of the bed with your feet. Read more about safe sleeping here.
Cot death and smoking
Do not smoke near your baby or during pregnancy. There is a clear link between smoking during and after pregnancy and cot death. Smoking during pregnancy causes a poorer oxygen supply and also has a negative influence on the growth and probably also on the lung functions of your child.
If your baby grows up in smoky environments after birth, this will affect the functioning of the lungs in a negative way. This reduces the absorption of oxygen and makes your child more susceptible to respiratory infections.
Do not sleep together
Of course it is very cozy and cozy to sleep together, but that is actually a bad idea. Certainly in the first 4 months sleeping together in one bed is a risk factor for cot death. Your child can get too hot, with the head coming under the duvet, getting stuck between mattresses, pressing the face into the cushions or falling out of bed.If you want to have your baby close by, you better put the bed in your bedroom.
There are indications that breastfeeding reduces the risk of cot death. You will have to do this in the first 3 months anyway. Why breastfeeding can reduce the chance? Because:
- The breast milk contains many antibodies.
- The muscles in the mouth and jaw are better developed by the specific suction method when breastfeeding.
- Babies use their neck muscles more during breastfeeding. This allows them to turn the head faster.
- Breastfeeding causes the baby to wake up earlier.
Use a pacifier
Although there is no hard evidence, some think that a pacifier also reduces the risk of cot death. Partly because your baby is less likely to lie down with the face in the mattress. Only give a pacifier if the breastfeeding is well under way so that your baby does not confuse the teat with the nipple. In addition, it is good to reduce the use of the teat around 10 months.
Watch out with medicines
Medicines may contain certain sedatives that cause your child to fall asleep too deeply. Therefore, make sure that you do not give it to your child and that you also avoid these substances during pregnancy and when you are breastfeeding. Always check with your doctor that the medicine you are receiving has this effect.
With a co-sleeper you keep the baby close to you. Click on the image for more information.
(Credit: Photo of Insung Yoon)