Study warns that relatives and babysitters may be increasing risk of SIDS

A new study has warned that many of the babies who have died in the care of a babysitter or relative were put to sleep using unsafe methods and surrounded by hazardous objects.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), commonly known as cot death, kills just under 300 babies a year in the UK. Although little is known about the exact cause of SIDS there are certain practices which are thought to reduce the likelihood of it occurring.

The safest way to put a baby to sleep is by laying them on their back in an un-cluttered cot and with their blanket tucked in no higher than the baby’s shoulders. Sleeping aids such as wedges or straps are thought to put babies at a greater risk of cot death.

According to a new study, many babysitters and relatives do not follow this advice when looking after a little one.

baby in cot with toys

Avoid cluttering your baby’s cot with toys and sleeping aids

The study was conducted by the Journal of Paediatrics and looked at 10,490 babies who died of sleep-related causes. Roughly 13 per cent of the deaths occurred when under the supervision of someone other than the child’s parents.

The babies that died when under the supervision of someone who was not their mum or dad were less likely to have been placed on their back when they were put to sleep. They were also more likely to have been put to sleep in a cot surrounded by toys or blankets.

Speaking about the results to Science Daily, Jeffrey Colvin, one of the study’s researchers, said: ‘A lot of relatives and friends may not be aware that babies are safest on their backs. They may have raised children before we knew that this was safest.’

Rachel Moon from the University of Virginia School of Medicine recommended telling the person looking after your baby the correct protocol regardless of whether you think they already know. Making a presumption could endanger your baby’s life.

She said: ‘If someone else — a babysitter, relative, or friend — is taking care of your baby, please make sure that they know to place your baby on the back in a crib and without any bedding. It’s always best to discuss where and how your baby should sleep.

‘You can’t make assumptions that the person with whom your baby is staying will know what is safest.’

For more information on reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), visit nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/reducing-risk-cot-death