National cot death charity marks special milestone

The Scottish Cot Death Trust marks its 30th anniversary this weekend
The Scottish Cot Death Trust marks its 30th anniversary this weekend

A national charity which raises funds to research the causes of cot death and improve the support available for bereaved families in Scotland is marking a special milestone this weekend.

The Scottish Cot Death Trust was founded 30 years ago on July 4, 1985 and covers the whole country.

To date the Trust - which has just five members of staff and relies heavily on public donations and volunteers - has invested more than £3 million into vital research - working with experts in Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK and abroad.

It also educates professionals and parents about reducing the risks to babies.

In Scotland a healthy baby dies suddenly and unexpectedly every nine days - the largest cause of death in infants after the first month of life. And since 1985, over 1600 healthy babies have died suddenly and unexpectedly.

This is widely known as Cot Death but is now referred to as Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) - the term Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is also often used. Last month members of the Scottish Parliament debated the work of the Trust as it commemorates 30 years of important work.

Lynsay Allan, executive director of the Trust, said: “In 2013 the Scottish Government set a target to reduce stillbirth and infant mortality by 15 per cent by 2015.

“The rate of stillbirths has reduced following successful strategies such as “Count the Kicks” which have educated mothers about knowing what is right for their baby in terms of movement, and to feel confident to act upon anything which is different from normal and seek medical attention.

“Since the hugely successful “Back to Sleep” public health campaign in the early 1990’s there was a dramatic fall (up to 70 per cent) in the number of cot deaths as parents began to place babies to sleep on their backs. “Since this time, the numbers of babies dying has sadly plateaued.” She added: “We need to ensure all families know what might increase the risk of a cot death and what they can do to minimise these.”

Knowing the Risks

The Trust says there are decisions and lifestyle choices which can increase the risk for babies.

These include: smoking during pregnancy as well as smoking around an infant; using a sleep surface where the baby is not lying on a firm, flat surface; using too many layers, too soft bedding or allowing the baby to overheat are all risks. If parents share a sleep space with their baby and are smokers, have drunk alcohol or have taken any drugs (including prescribed medication that can make you drowsy), they are less alert. The safest place for a baby to sleep for the first six months is in their own cot in the parent’s bedroom.

But the Trust warns babies don’t just die in cots: it can also happen in car seats or even lying with them on a sofa. Toddlers and older children can also die in these circumstances, so it is really important that people make informed decisions about where their baby sleeps.

The Trust has three regional support workers who offer an at home bereavement support service as well as ongoing contact for as long as a family needs it.

A bereavement counselling service and contact with other families affected by cot death is also offered. Sibling support, child therapy and enhanced support for families deciding to have another baby following a cot death are all available by the Trust.

For more information visit: Scottish Cot Death Trust