Parents are ignoring advice to place babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of cot death amid fears about a growing number of children with 'flat head syndrome'.
Campaigners said there had been an alarming increase in the 'dangerous practice' of babies sleeping on their front or side. Researchers believe that the proportion of parents who are ignoring the official advice on the best way to avoid sudden infant death has doubled in six years and they believe this may be because of increased publicity about so-called 'flat head syndrome' where babies' skulls can deform because they sleep in one position.
A survey carried out by the Foundation for the Study of Infant deaths (FSID) also found that almost 19% of mothers never put babies under six months on their fronts before playing with them as seen by physiotherapists as important in developing movement skills. In 2004, when the last survey was taken it was found that 329 babies were victims of cot death in the UK, of which 309 were aged under one year old.
Joyce Epstein, the director of the FSID, explained that their fear is that their lifesaving message for parents to sleep babies on the back to reduce the risk of cot death is being undermined by a mistaken perception that flattened heads poses a greater danger. She categorically stated that it does not.
She explained that the campaign is being undertaken to remind parents they must not abandon back sleeping for babies. She said that parents might be able to avoid or minimise the effects of flat head syndrome simply by having fun with their babies when they are awake, and not by jeopardising their safety when they are
Research presented to the chief medical officer in 1993 suggested that failing to sleep babies on their backs increased their chances of cot death by nine times.
Peta Smith, of the Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists, said they have been seeing an increase in the number of children who showed a delay in movement development because babies were not given enough time to play on their tummies. She explained that simple measures like giving the baby supervised tummy time every day will help them co-ordinate, balance and control their body and give them a foundation for all movement and skills.