One in 6 babies put at risk by smoking parents

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One in six babies is put at risk of cot death because the parents are smokers and share a bed with their child, a survey has found.

One in six babies is put at risk of cot death because the parents are smokers and share a bed with their child, a survey has found.

The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths launches a campaign today saying the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot in the parents' bedroom for the first six months.

The survey carried out by the charity to mark Baby Safety Week found many mothers and fathers were confused about safe sleeping practices for their baby. More than nine out of 10 knew it was unsafe to share a bed with a baby if they smoked in bed but 22 per cent mistakenly thought it was safe provided they never smoked in bed.

The foundation said it made no difference where or when they smoked, the risk was still there.

The survey found that one-third of parents shared their bed with their baby at some point, having it sleep with them for part or all of the night. Previous research has shown that bedsharing is safe, except in the first eight weeks, or if the parent is under the influence of drink or drugs.

The riskiest scenario is falling asleep with the baby on the sofa, when the chances of "cot death" are 50 times higher, due to smothering.

Joyce Epstein, director of FSID, said the results of the poll were worrying.

"With seven babies dying as cot deaths every week and the high proportion happening when sharing a bed - especially when parents are smokers - we must not be complacent.

"The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot in the parents' room for the first six months.

"It is risky to bedshare with a baby if either parent is a smoker, has been drinking, takes drugs or medication that makes them drowsy, or is excessively tired."

Bed sharing appears to be on the increase. Many new mothers choose to have their babies sleeping in bed with them because it makes breastfeeding easier at night. Some find it is the only way to prevent new babies from crying.

About 350 babies are victims of cot death in the UK each year. The number has fallen by 70 per cent since 1991 when official guidance was changed and parents were advised to put their babies to sleep on their backs.

Babies are poor at controlling their body temperature and lose much of their heat through the head and face. Sleeping face down or with the head covered may increase the risk of over-heating. Exposure to smoking in the house may make them more vulnerable to toxins released by bacteria in the nose and throat.

How to avoid cot death

DOs

* Put your baby to sleep on its back

* Place the baby with its feet to the foot of the cot (so it can't wriggle down under the covers)

* Tuck bedclothes in no higher than the shoulders

* Put the baby to sleep in a cot in your bedroom for the first six months

DON'Ts

* Overheat the room

* Place the baby by a radiator or in direct sunlight

* Allow the baby to share your bed if you are a smoker, have been drinking alcohol, take medicines that make you drowsy or are excessively tired

* Fall asleep with the baby on a sofa or armchair

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