A leading child health doctor has welcomed plans to warn parents not to sleep alongside their babies as a way to reduce the 'absolute tragedy' of unexplained infant deaths.
Every case of unexplained infant death is an absolute tragedy for a family, and although rare, still claims the lives of around five babies each week - that's still five cases too many,
– Dr Simon Newell, vice president for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
He said that although co-sleeping is safe most of the time, the risks are higher when the adult is very tired, drunk alcohol, used drugs or when they have taken medication which might sedate.
"To address this, we need to help ensure that all families have access to safe sleeping guidance and resources,"he said. "And because we know that vulnerable families are especially at risk of Sids, we need a targeted campaign to promote safe sleeping habits."
A parenting charity has warned that draft guidelines warning new mums not to sleep with their new babies does not 'reflect the reality' of family life and could lead to parents concealing information from health officials.
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, raised concerns over draft guidelines aimed at reducing the number of babies who die from sudden infant death.
We know that around half of UK mothers bed-share with their baby at some point in their first few months.
Nice guidance needs to reflect this reality.
We are concerned that these guidelines will lead to parents hiding the fact that they are bed-sharing, or doing so through desperation or exhaustion without safety strategies in place.
– Brenda Phipps
However, she said that parents should be warned about the risk of sharing a bed with their young children in higher risk situations, including when babies are underweight or premature, or when parents have been smoking or drinking.
New parents should be warned that sleeping together with babies under the age of one increases the risk of sudden infant death, health officials at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) have said.
The health group has produced new draft recommendations calling for all parents to taught about safe sleeping habits in a bid to cut the number of cot deaths.
"Falling asleep with a baby, whether that's in a bed or on a sofa or chair, is risky," said professor Mark Baker, the clinical practice director at Nice.
"This is especially important if parents drink alcohol, take drugs or expose their baby to tobacco smoke."
Experts say placing the baby face down along the thigh offers much more support for while the parent or carer administers blows to the baby's back to tackle choking.
If an infant is choking then, in the first instance, they should be laid face down along your thigh and supported by your arm, give them five back blows between the shoulder blades with your heel of your hand.
Check their mouth for any obstruction. If there is still a blockage then turn the infant onto their back and give up to five chest thrusts.
Use two fingers, push inwards and upwards against their breastbone. If the obstruction does not clear after three cycles of back blows and chest thrusts, call for an ambulance and continue until help arrives.
– CLIVE JAMES, TRAINING OFFICER AT ST JOHN AMBULANCE
The change in advice, to be officially announced on March 3, comes as a survey of 1,000 parents of under-fives found more a third (38%) have seen their child choke.
Half of these parents admitted they did not know the correct procedure for helping their child, or ways to clear the obstruction.
New information on the behaviour of babies in the womb may lead to "more understanding" about how children adapt to social situations, regulate stimulation and take a bottle or breast when born.
The study, published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology, found babies in the later stages of pregnancy are capable of touching their lower face and mouth, indicating healthy brain function.
This effect is likely to be evolutionally determined, preparing the child for life outside the womb.
Building on these findings, future research could lead to more understanding about how the child is prepared prenatally for life, including their ability to engage with their social environment, regulate stimulation and being ready to take a breast or bottle.
– Brian Francis, professor of social statistics at Lancaster University
Babies learn about touch while in the womb and can predict, rather than react to, their own hand movements, new research has shown.
Foetuses in the later stages of gestation increased touching between the lower part of their face and mouth, which scientists say is an "indicator" of healthy brain development.
Psychologists from universities in Durham and Lancaster carried out a total of 60 scans of 15 healthy foetuses at monthly intervals between 24 weeks' and 36 weeks' gestation. They used 4D imaging to create scans of life inside the womb.