Many parents still unsure on baby safe sleep

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13th March 2017 – The advice, that babies should sleep on their backs to lower the risk of  sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), has been the same since 1991. However, a new survey shows more than 55% of parents are still unsure how to put their  baby down safely to sleep.

SIDS, when a baby dies suddenly and unexpectedly and no cause of death is found, is also known as ‘cot death’


Five hundred parents of children aged 0-2 years old took part in the survey which was commissioned by The Lullaby Trust which aims to prevent unexpected deaths in infancy.

The charity told us it’s not sure why so many parents are unclear about safer sleep, but it knows for a fact that if all parents followed safer sleep advice there would be hardly any SIDS deaths and the lives of more babies could be saved.

The survey found that while most parents were aware of SIDS there was confusion around one of the most basic steps to reduce the risk – sleeping a baby on its back for every sleep.

The poll showed 38% of parents were unsure whether they could sleep a baby on its front and 55% were unsure whether to sleep a baby on its side.


If you’re older than 25 it’s highly likely you were put down to sleep as a baby on your front or side. However, in 1991 new advice, that babies should sleep on their backs, was issued. Since that time, the number of deaths from SIDS in the US has fallen.

The Lullaby Trust says evidence shows that babies who are slept on their back for every sleep are six times less likely to die from SIDS than those who sleep on their front or side.

However, when it comes to getting the message across The Lullaby Trust says there is still a long way to go. The Royal College of  Midwives also believes there is clearly a need for more education and support.

ABCs of safer sleep

Because the survey results indicated that many parents were still not clear about safer sleep, The Lullaby Trust has decided, as part of Safer Sleep Week, to go back to basics.

All week it’s promoting the ABCs of safer sleep: ALWAYS sleep your baby on their BACK in a CLEAR cot or sleep space – free of bumpers, toys and pillows.

It says it’s best to start doing this from day one and to stick to the routine as babies who are normally slept on their backs but sometimes slept on their fronts are at a great risk of sudden death.

The Lullaby Trust believes safer sleep for baby, means sounder sleep for parents as it gives them one less thing to worry about.

Aside from sleeping on their backs the other key messages are: don’t smoke during or  after pregnancy and don’t let anyone smoke around your baby. Sleep your baby in their own cot or Moses basket in a room with you for the first 6 months.

If you have any concerns about your baby’s sleep then speak to your midwife, health visitor or  GP.


Commenting on the survey in a statement, Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, says: “Stressing to prospective parents about the need for their baby to be put to sleep on its back is standard midwifery advice and has been so for many years.

“There is strong evidence about putting babies to sleep on their back and a reduction in the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome, so this is important advice. This survey shows there is clearly a need for more education and support for women and their partners who are expecting the birth of a baby.

“Women and their partners do though have a lot of new information to take on board when preparing to be parents so it is important that key messages such as this can be reinforced and repeated throughout and after the  pregnancy. Pressures of work for midwives do mean they are increasingly spending less time with women in hospital and at home in the postnatal period.

“This highlights why it is so important that midwives have the time to discuss issues such as this with women and their partners, before and after the birth. Home visits by midwives after the birth for example are helpful as you can see where the baby sleeps and what else is in the cot.”

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