Smoking a possible key factor in cot death rates

90% of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) deaths are mainly due to maternal smoking, according to Bristol University researchers. Smoking women are four times more likely to lose their babies to SIDS death than non-smoking women. Babies of smoking mothers are at greater risk due to passive smoking. Number of hours the baby is exposed to smoking is in direct relationship to risk of his/her death. This research was published in the “Journal of Early Human Development”.

Even though both SIDS deaths and smoking among pregnant women (25% to 15%) are in decline, percentage of SIDS deaths due to smoking is rising (57% to 86%) in recent days. 60% of SIDS deaths can be prevented if no women smokes during pregnancy. But researchers failed to give exact causes for this high incidence of SIDS deaths and smoking. Smoking may affect brain chemical balance and prevent development of the lungs.

The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) issued a statement saying, “We welcome the latest research from the FSID Research Unit at Bristol University.”

Professor George Haycock, FSID’s scientific adviser says: “The figures show that maternal smoking is now the most important avoidable risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

“If no women smoked in pregnancy, about 60 per cent of cot deaths could be avoided. This means that in the UK the number of deaths could fall from around 300 a year to 120 a year.”

FSID says cot death is still the biggest killer of babies over one month old in the UK today, claiming more lives than road traffic accidents, leukaemia and meningitis put together.

Advice from FSID for parents to reduce the risk of cot death:

  • Cut smoking in pregnancy – fathers too! And don’t let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby.
  • Place your baby on the back to sleep (and not on the front or side).
  • Do not let your baby get too hot, and keep your baby’s head uncovered.
  • Place your baby with their feet to the foot of the cot, to prevent them wriggling down under the covers.
  • Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.
  • The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib or cot in a room with you for the first six months.

It’s especially dangerous for your baby to sleep in your bed if you (or your partner):

  • are a smoker, even if you never smoke in bed or at home
  • have been drinking alcohol
  • take medication or drugs that make you drowsy
  • feel very tired;

or if your baby:

  • was born before 37 weeks
  • weighed less than 2.5kg or 5½ lbs at birth
  • is less than three months old.

Don’t forget, accidents can happen: you might roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby; or your baby could get caught between the wall and the bed, or could roll out of an adult bed and be injured.

  • Settling your baby to sleep (day and night) with a dummy can reduce the risk of cot death, even if the dummy falls out while your baby is asleep.
  • Breastfeed your baby. Establish breastfeeding before starting to use a dummy.

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