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Parents, carers and families in Somerset are being urged to remember the golden rules to promote safer sleep for every baby.

Safer Sleep Week starts today (March 9) and aims to make those caring for babies aware of the dos and don’ts of naps and night-time sleeps.

Tragically, about four babies die each week in the UK, as a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) but following the golden rules can help parents and everyone to reduce the risks.

First and foremost: Parents or carers should never share a bed or fall asleep anywhere with the baby if they have been drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or smoke. The safest place for baby to sleep for the first six months is in a cot in the same room as those looking after them.

Other important guidance includes:

  • Place the baby on their back to sleep, in a cot in the same room as the parent/carer, for the first six months.
  • Don’t smoke during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and don’t let anyone smoke in the same room as the baby.
  • Parents/carers must not share a bed with the baby if they have been drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or smoking.
  • Never sleep with the baby on a sofa or armchair.
  • Don’t let the baby get too hot or cold.
  • Keep the baby’s head uncovered. Their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders.
  • Place the baby in the “feet to foot” position, with their feet at the end of the cot or Moses basket.

Cllr Clare Paul, Cabinet member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “We know that greater awareness of safer sleep leads to a decrease in the numbers of baby deaths. We would encourage all professionals working with parents during pregnancy, parents and their families to make sure they are aware of this safer sleep for babies advice.

“We encourage everyone to share the Somerset County Council safer sleep posts on social media, these are evidence-based and sharing information from trusted sources can help to raise awareness and inform others.”

As well as following the safer sleep guidance, the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) can be further reduced by breastfeeding the baby and making sure they receive all their scheduled vaccinations.

Becky Applewood, Deputy Director of Women’s and Children’s Health with Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Breastfeeding for at least two months halves the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) but the longer you can continue the more protection it will give your baby. We recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed for at least six months but even breastfeeding for a short time can offer protection for your baby.

“If you are struggling with breastfeeding, talk to your midwife or health visitor and they can support you. Or call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.

“Vaccinating your baby also reduces the risk of SIDS. Research studies have shown that there is no increased risk of SIDS from vaccines, and babies who are up to date with their vaccinations actually have a significantly lower risk.

“If you have any concerns or questions about immunising your child it is best to speak to a trained health professional such as your doctor or health visitor.”

Babies should sleep in a clear sleep space, which is easy to create in a cot or Moses basket.

For families who do bed share, there are recommendations that are important to follow to reduce the risk of SIDS.  It is important to know that there are some circumstances in which co-sleeping with baby can be very dangerous

  • Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with the baby, this can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times
  • Never sleep or fall asleep with the baby anywhere if you have been drinking, taking drugs or smoke

Further advice on co-sleeping includes:

  • Keep pillows, sheets, blankets away from the baby as well as other items that could obstruct the baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat. A high proportion of infants who die as a result of SIDS are found with their head covered by loose bedding.
  • Follow safer sleep advice from the Lullaby Trust to reduce the risk of SIDS such as sleeping baby on their back
  • Avoid letting pets or other children in the bed
  • Make sure baby won’t fall out of bed or get trapped between the mattress and the wall
  • For a short video on co-sleeping advice: