We bought something that could kill our son

Every new parent has the exact same fear. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), otherwise known as ‘cot death’.

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What if you put your baby to sleep, and they stop breathing while you’re asleep? Every single new parent is scared of this. Whenever I put Raife to bed, I usually end up lying there, just listening out for him breathing. There have been so many times when I’ve looked at him and can’t see him breathing, so I put my finger just below his nose hoping to feel his breaths. Nothing. I’d then rest my hand on his tummy. PHEW!

The worry that something you did or bought could contribute only intensifies that fear.

We bought something that could kill our son.

When Emma was pregnant, quite early on, in fact, we took a trip to IKEA to look for ideas for Raife’s nursery. We came across a product I’d not encountered before – a cot bumper. Em had heard a little bit about them and this one seemed a reasonable price. Sold.

IKEA bumper

Let’s just take a look at the product description on the IKEA website:

“A safe and secure sleeping environment is the best thing you can give your baby. A bumper pad prevents your baby from bumping into or getting stuck between the cot’s hard rails.”

As an expectant, first-time parent, that sounds perfect. Imagine how terrible we’d feel if our little baby got stuck between the rails! We put the bumper in the cot months before Raife was due – it looked so cute, matching the colours the nursery colours and style, with a few little teddies. We were so excited.

Without realising, we bought something that could kill our son. Thankfully, though, Emma came across a few things online which suggested that bumpers increase the risk of SIDS. I couldn’t quite understand how, but we took it off long before Raife came into the world.

Disaster averted!

Safer Sleep Week

It got us thinking about how easy it is to make life or death mistakes as a parent. But more importantly, how irresponsible manufacturers and retailers are in promoting such products.

This week (12-18 March) is Safer Sleep Week, an initiative launched by The Lullaby Trust to raise awareness of the best practices and products to avoid to minimise the risk to SIDS. Sadly, four babies still die every week from SIDS.

The Lullaby Trust released a warning against the products that can increase the risk of SIDS in babies under the age of 1. Bumpers are one of the products listed. Sleeping pods, nests, baby hammocks, cot bumpers, pillows, duvets are all included. Research has shown that anything other than a flat, firm surface, or the use of soft/heavy blankets pose a higher risk of SIDS.

As The Lullaby Trust explains, so many of these products are produced by reputable brands and sold by reputable retailers. And that is such a huge part of the problem. 41% of parents surveyed by the organisation said they had either bought or were planning to buy a sleep nest or pod, despite 91% saying compliance with safety advice was an important factor when they buy a product. The chances are that their decision has been influenced at least partly because well know brands and retailers are selling these products, often with inaccurate safety claims.

Things like a sleep pod wedge the baby into place. That can sound so appealing to new parents struggling with sleep deprivation. A sleep-deprived parent will try anything to get their baby to sleep better. Emma and I have had a rough few weeks with Raife as he goes through sleep regression. If we hadn’t spent time looking at what is safe and what isn’t, spending £100 on a sleep pod is more than tempting. And I’m sure plenty of parents has deemed that a price worth paying to get some sleep and sanity back.

And yet, retailers are promoting them as safe products, putting our babies at risk, turning a profit as a result. Manufacturers and retailers need to stop being so careless with something so precious – at least I hope it’s carelessness and not deceit. They need to stop putting their profits first. They need to stop putting babies’ lives at risk.

You can find more information about safe sleep guidelines, Safer Sleep Week and what to look for when making purchasing decisions on The Lullaby Trust website.

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