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Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Dummies reduce risk of cot death
Baby on it's back
Babies should be put to sleep on their backs
Parents are being advised to give a dummy to newborn babies every time they sleep to reduce the risk of cot death.

The government recommendations come after a review of current evidence found dummies halved the risk sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Breastfeeding babies should not be given a dummy until one-month old and parents should never force a baby to take a dummy if they do not want it.

Rates of cot deaths are falling but 300 babies still die every year in the UK.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, who carried out the review of the evidence, already advise that a dummy should be offered every time a baby is put down to sleep.

A number of epidemiological research studies have appeared in the last few years suggesting that babies who are regularly given a dummy when put down to sleep are less likely to die suddenly and unexpectedly than those who are not
Professor George Haycock

But this is the first time UK experts have specifically recommended giving a dummy to reduce the risk of cot death.

Department of Health leaflets for parents on preventing cot death have been updated to include the recommendations.

A recent study by researchers in California found that giving a baby a dummy may reduce the risk of cot death by as much as 90%.

Controversy

The issue has always been controversial.

Professor George Haycock, scientific advisor at the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths said: "Dummy use is widespread in the UK and other developed countries and generates strong feelings both for and against, based mainly on cultural and family tradition and custom rather than on scientific evidence that it is beneficial or harmful.

"A number of epidemiological research studies have appeared in the last few years suggesting that babies who are regularly given a dummy when put down to sleep are less likely to die suddenly and unexpectedly than those who are not."

But he added parents should not worry if the dummy falls out while their baby is asleep.

HOW TO REDUCE COT DEATH RISK
Put your baby to sleep on its back
Do not expose your child to smoke
Keep your baby cool, with its head uncovered
Parents should not share a bed with their baby if they are very tired, smoke or have been drinking or taking drugs which make you drowsy. But the baby should be in a cot in the same room for at least the first six months

Parents should not force their baby to take a dummy if he or she does not want it and should never coat the dummy in anything sweet.

Babies should be weaned off dummies from around six months onwards as that is when the risk of cot death starts to fall, the Foundation advised.

There is no clear reason why dummies protect against sudden death.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "It is possible that using a dummy at the start of any sleep period reduces the risk of cot death.

"If breastfeeding do not begin to give a dummy until the baby is one month old to ensure breastfeeding is well established."

However, he added it was important that parents continued to heed all the advice on reducing the risk of cot death, such as putting their baby to sleep on its back.

Dr Richard Wilson, honorary consultant in paediatrics at Kingston Hospital said he hoped this advice would help to further cut cot deaths.

"It's important to stress that what's been advised is using a dummy when babies go to sleep, not all the time."

But Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust said there was not enough evidence to conclude either way whether using a dummy reduced cot death.

"We would welcome more research in this area."


SEE ALSO
Day-time cot death risk warning
25 Jan 07 |  Health
Dummies 'reduce cot death risk'
09 Dec 05 |  Health
Bed-sharing fear over cot deaths
08 Jul 05 |  Scotland

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