Around 290 babies and toddlers die every year of SIDS in the UK. Each year in Kent, approximately nine babies under a year old die unexpectedly in their sleep.
Research has shown that several parental and infant care factors are more frequently associated with babies who die of SIDS. There are no obvious reasons for these deaths, but factors such as overheating and co-sleeping do increase the risk, so parents who follow the safer sleep advice can significantly lower the chances of this occurring.
The multi-agency Kent Safeguarding Children’s Board and partner organisations have developed innovative thermometer cards which will help parents understand the issues and monitor the temperature of the room in which their baby is sleeping. These are currently being given to parents with key safety messages by health visitors and midwives. Swale Health Visitor Tracey Methley-Keen believes it’s a vital support tool: “It’s really awful for parents when they are just so tired and struggling to get their baby to sleep that they decide to lay down with the baby or they wrap it up in lots of layers to avoid it waking up cold, especially at this time of year when the temperature drops.”
She added: “Many parents often don’t realise how dangerous this can be and we need to keep having the conversations to remind them – the thermometer cards are a valuable visual reminder and a great conversation prompt.”
Mum Jemma Gardner from the Isle of Sheppey said: “My daughter Maisie is 14-weeks-old and I’m fairly aware of the dangers of her overheating but I know some new parents aren’t and they can be easily confused, especially when it’s winter and you’re looking at putting your baby in a grow bag or a blanket to sleep.”
Kent County Council Public Health Director Andrew Scott-Clark explained the work underway to help raise awareness: “It is vitally important for health visitors, midwives and other professionals working with parents during and after pregnancy to target parents with safer sleep messages. We are working with partner agencies and organisations across the health sectors in Kent to ensure that all professionals in touch with parents make sure that the messages are understood by them.”
Sue Gower, Programme Development Officer for the KSCB said: “The thermometer card has been designed in consultation with partners to be a useful and practical product for parents and help them ensure that their baby does not overheat when sleeping. KSCB hopes that the thermometer card and the information it contains, will reduce the numbers of avoidable sudden infant deaths in Kent.”
A baby is at greater risk of dying during sleep when a parent/carer places their baby on an adult bed or sofa to sleep (day or night). Also, if they fall asleep with their baby in an adult bed, sofa or armchair, especially if they smoke, have recently drunk alcohol or have taken drugs (including medications that may make you drowsy).
To prevent your baby overheating, it is advised:
- Never cover your baby’s head when they are sleeping
- Never put your baby to sleep in a cot/crib with pillows, cot bumpers, duvets/quilts or soft toys
- Always remove your baby’s hat and outer clothing when coming indoors – especially if the baby is asleep
- Always remove your baby from their car seat as soon they are brought inside – car seats are designed for transport only.
- Avoid dressing your baby in warm clothing when carrying in a baby sling – they could overheat.
Sarah Wilson from the Lullaby Trust said: “It is very encouraging to see that Kent Safeguarding Children’s Board are taking steps to help parents sleep their baby safely during the winter. A room temperature of 16-20°C, with light bedding or a lightweight well-fitting baby sleep bag is recommended to avoid overheating but it can be difficult to judge room temperature so a thermometer card will be helpful for parents.
“It can be tempting for parents to wrap their baby up in lots of layers when the weather is cold so the advice will assist parents in making informed choices about their baby’s bedding to avoid letting them get too warm. It is also advisable to check your baby regularly to see if he or she is too hot by feeling the baby’s tummy or the back of their neck and if their skin is hot or sweaty to remove one or more layers of bedclothes.”
For more information on this and settling babies to sleep, parents are advised to speak to their health visitor. The thermometer card also provides details of support services to help parents including children’s centres across the county.
For more information on smoking cessation services call 0300 123 1220 or text ‘quit’ to 87023.
Find your nearest Children’s Centre and see what’s going on at www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/childcare-and-pre-school/childrens-centres
Kent County Council 13 December 2016