Duvets raise cot death risk

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Duvets and quilts should not be used for babies under the age of one year because of the risk that they will cover their faces and obstruct their breathing, doctors warn.

A study of 100 families of babies who died from cot death found that the use of a duvet or bed quilt increased threefold the risk of the baby dying. The increased risk applied only if the baby slept on its back - the recommended position - or side, and not when it slept on its front.

The authors of the study, which was conducted in Tasmania and is published in the British Medical Journal, say that when babies reach the age of 16 weeks they can pull bedclothes over their faces and may move their sleeping position. Duvets do not tuck in whereas blankets, which do and are therefore secured, are less likely to be pulled over the face.

Parents have been advised to put their babies to sleep on their backs since the start of the decade and the number of cot deaths has more than halved. Tucking them into bed with blankets rather than laying a duvet over them further reduces the risk during the vulnerable first year.