What is ‘sudden death syndrome' affecting millions of babies worldwide?

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Elizabeth Smith says she was persistently asked about termination while pregnant with Mary. — ABC
Elizabeth Smith says she was persistently asked about termination while pregnant with Mary. — ABC

A charity, The Lullaby Trust, has recently warned parents against putting their babies at risk of suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), saying that allowing a youngster to sleep anywhere but a flat surface increases their chances of the killer condition.

The charity conducted a survey of 1,000 parents of toddlers under the age of one and found that 70% let their baby to nap in a bouncer, 67 per cent in a swing and 61 per cent on a beanbag. Eight per cent of parents left their baby in these items to sleep overnight.

"Babies are safest sleeping on their back on a clear, flat, firm sleep surface, like a cot or Moses basket, said chief executive of The Lullaby Trust Jenny Ward.  

"This not only helps to reduce the risk of SIDS but also helps to keep a baby's airway open and clear."

The trust recommends placing a baby down to sleep on their backs, and ensuring their face is clear, with no loose bedding or padded sides.

Products such as swings and bouncers are useful as long as the baby is awake and supervised, said Ms Ward. She added: "We know that babies can and do fall asleep in places not designed for them to sleep in." 

"Many parents find products like baby bouncers and swings useful for when their baby is awake and supervised, but they are not suitable for babies to sleep in."

According to the Lullaby Trust, SIDS claims the lives of around three babies per week every year.The majority (89 per cent) of deaths happen in the baby's first six months of life.

Ms Ward added: "All parents must be made aware of how to protect their baby's airway, especially when they're asleep.

"If a baby falls asleep in an item that keeps them propped in a sitting position, like a swing or bouncer, it's best to move them onto a clear, firm, flat surface to help keep their airway open.

"Even if a baby is awake, it's still important to make sure their head is not tipped forwards and their nose and mouth are not covered to keep their airway clear and protect their breathing."

The charity's warning coincides with Safer Sleep Week, which runs from March 11 to 17.