The safest way for your baby to sleep

Protecting the safety and health of your baby, ensuring that he or she feels well and has no shortage of anything is a fundamental, even elementary, need of parents. But despite all the precautions, there are healthy babies every year who die in their sleep. Sudden infant death is called this phenomenon and causes most deaths in Germany in the first year of life.

But there is also good news: Sudden infant death is becoming less frequent. In the last twelve years, deaths have fallen by two-thirds. Instead of 15 in 1990, only five out of 10,000 infants died in 2002. Researchers recognise and warn against more risk factors. Most of the deceased babies slept in a prone position, often under blankets that were too warm and raised above their heads. The indoor climate was also often too hot or too humid. Mortality was also higher in smoky indoor air.

Why all this increases the risk of sudden infant death cannot yet be explained. On the one hand, doctors say the prone position causes blood vessels to buckle, disrupting the blood supply to the brain. Oxygen deficiency leads to respiratory arrest. Doctors have also found that emergency breathing did not work for the infants affected. There are certain nerve cells in the brain which, in cases of acute oxygen deficiency, order the lungs to take a few quicks and deep breaths. If infants do not have this ability, they may die because they may have buried their nose in the fur of their pet.

But even though medicine and science are still puzzling about the obvious causes, the following recommendations help to make the baby's sleep safer:

1. the correct sleeping position is the supine position

Babies cannot choose their posture themselves in the first five to six months. During this time, they cannot raise and hold their heads. Put your baby on his back to sleep from the first day of life. As long as the baby is awake, it can and should also lie on the stomach to strengthen the neck and back muscles. But it should sleep in the supine position. And like the prone position during sleep, it should avoid the lateral position.

2. sleeping bag instead of blanket

Take a sleeping bag without a hood and do not use a blanket. Baby sleeping bags give your baby plenty of freedom to romp around, but your child remains wrapped. So it doesn't have to freeze or sweat. Also, it can't pull the sleeping bag over your head, mouth and nose and suffocate.

3. nothing unnecessary in bed

Do not put your baby in bed for the first 12 months. So there are no cuddly tissues, no sheepskins or artificial skins and no larger cuddly toys or little nests, just as there are no hot-water bottles or heating pads. All these things could cause heat build-up or hinder breathing. A pillow also has no place in the cot because the exhaled carbon dioxide could collect there and is then breathed in again.

4. avoid overheating

Parents fear that the baby might freeze. But the greater danger is overheating. When it's freezing, it screams. However, it sleeps after overheating. However, breathing and circulation can be impaired. The ideal room temperature for children in the waking state is 18 to 20 degrees Celsius for sleeping at 16 to 18 degrees Celsius. You can check this with a thermometer in the bedroom. Do not dress the baby too thickly. From the fourth week of life, babies do not need more clothing in the house than their parents. For sleeping - except for the nappy - undershirt, pyjamas and sleeping bag are sufficient. In summer, at high ambient temperatures, the underwear is also sufficient. Do not put on a sleeping cap: the baby's head should be uncovered so that excess heat can be released through the scalp. Never dress your child during the day it sweats.

5. no passive smoking for children

The risk for your baby to die of Sudden Infant Death increases with every cigarette smoked! Therefore, do not smoke during pregnancy, breastfeeding and around the infant - for your baby's sake and for the sake of yourself. Convince your family not to smoke when your baby is present.

6. cot next to parents' bed

If the child is still young, you want to take it to bed with you. This can sometimes be more practical because of the nocturnal breastfeeding. However, it is better if the baby is lying in his or her own bed - in the parents' slumber.

Copyright: Landeszentrale fuer Gesundheitsfoerderung in Rheinland-Pfalz e.V. (LZG) Germany