27/11/2009 05:05 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Dilemma Of The Day: What Is The Risk Of Cot Death?

Q: I have a beautiful baby boy who is now eight weeks old. I am enjoying every moment with him but, if I'm honest, I am so scared about cot death I'm tying myself up in knots. How likely is it to happen and how can I stop worrying?

A: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), more commonly known as cot death, is of course a frightening issue that crosses every parent's mind. It is no surprise that you are feeling very anxious about this happening to you.

You can never totally stop worrying about something happening to your child. But it should give you some peace of mind to know that cot death is still a rare occurrence. Sadly, the UK records around 340 cot deaths each year. This of course is 340 too many, but when you consider that, in 2008, there were almost 709,000 live births in the UK, this is still a very, very small number.

Also, since 1991, cot deaths have been reduced by an incredible 75 per cent thanks to an awareness campaign by launched by the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID). The campaign recommended a number of steps that parents can take to dramatically reduce the risk. These include:

  • Putting your baby to sleep on his back. His cot should also be in your bedroom for six months;
  • Ensuring that he is not exposed to cigarette smoke (both inside and outside the womb);
  • Preventing your baby from overheating by using the right amount of clothing and bedding;
  • Using the 'feet to foot' rule so that your baby can't wriggle down the cot and under his bedclothes; and
  • Resisting the urge to share a bed with your baby, or fall asleep together on the sofa or armchair. This is especially important if you have been smoking, drinking or taking medication.

There is also evidence to show that breastfeeding your baby and keeping him up to date with his immunisations can reduce the risk. Using a dummy can also help, although researchers are still not sure why.

By six months of age, the risks begins to reduce naturally. However, do try to resist the urge to count the days until this time. Instead, try and take comfort in these very encouraging medical facts and recommendations, and concentrate your thoughts on making the most of every day with your baby boy.