According to the findings of the Peiling Veilig Slapen (Safe Sleep Survey), a substantial proportion of parents do not follow the advice they are being given to make sleep safer for their babies. Ignoring this advice increases the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), also known as ‘cot death’: the sudden and unexpected death of a (usually sleeping) baby for which a thorough autopsy can find no explanation.
An estimate suggests that in the Netherlands, an average of 10-20 babies under the age of 12 years die in this way. According to the survey, in seven out of ten families, the parents choose to put their baby to sleep on its back.
Parents believe that their baby sleeps better on its side or on its stomach and that this position lowers the baby’s chance of developing a flattened head. However, allowing babies to sleep on their stomachs increases the chances of cot death because their breathing is more easily obstructed in this position.
Moreover, at least one family out of twelve chose to have their baby sleep in bed with them, going against medical advice. However, they are unaware that sleeping together in one bed is risky for babies until they are four months old. If the parents smoke or if the baby is premature, it is only safe for babies after 6 months. This is because these babies can become trapped between their parents’ bodies or inadvertently smothered by a duvet or a cushion.
University of Twente researcher Annemieke Konijnendijk said, “It is not self-evident that parents follow advice on safe sleep care behavior. It is still very important that nurses, maternity carers, and child healthcare workers advise parents on ways to make a baby’s sleeping area as safe as possible. Not putting the baby to sleep on its stomach, not having the baby sleep in bed with the parents, avoiding cushion-like objects in bed with the baby, and not smoking still offer the best protection. So it’s worth giving attention to why some parents don’t follow this advice.”