Friday, 30 May 2008

Fighting cot death and side effects

It's today's news that some cases of cot death may be caused by bacterial infections.

If you have a child it's likely that a pediatrician (or equivalent) has told you about cot death - the death of an infant that is apparently inexplicable.

When my son Jacopo was born (19 months ago) we were told when we left the hospital just after he was born. We were also told few things to do to minimise the chances that this horrible situation may occur to us: don't smoke nearby your newborn, don't let him sleep in our bed and - above all - put him to sleep on his back (an not on his tummy, as commonly practiced until about 15 years ago).

All nice and easy. But...

But nobody told us of a naughty side effect of one of these simple practices. If your child always stays on his back (and most of his time he/she does as babies sleep more than 12h a day - also, our one actually disliked being put on his tummy even when he was awake) he/she may develop the flat head syndrome. This is a cosmetic syndrome whereby the soft skull of the baby flattens. It's - clearly - caused by the fact that the baby lies face up with the back of his head on a not so soft surface (soft pillows should not be used with newborns).

As said we weren't told and Jacopo developed a minor flat head on the right side of his skull. We were told by the pediatrician, after we realised it when he was 9 months old, not to worry, that it'll normalise by the time he's two (it hasn't yet, and we're 5 months away from his second birthday) and that this might have happened. We were told of tricks to play to encourage him to turn his head more frequently - move toys from one side of the bed to the other - and optionally to buy a specially made pillow. In the most extreme cases an helmet may be required but it wasn't our case.

Well, to the point... why nobody told us of what might have happened? Obviously preventing cot death is of highest priority, but making parents aware of side effects of having the baby sleep on his back is also important. So, if you're in the same situation we were a year and a half ago, invent something and have your baby move the head when he's awake. He'll be grateful when he'll grow up.

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