In 1979, our darling daughter Tamzin was only seven weeks old when she died suddenly in her pram. The grief and guilt we felt that day was overwhelming.
Commonly referred to as cot death, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) was greatly reduced following the launch of the 1991 ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign, which encouraged parents to lie babies to sleep on their backs. However, SIDS continues to affect 290 families each year in the UK. It has no known cause, leaving many bereft families without any closure.
My close family and friends didn’t ‘go quiet’ after a few months, as so many people do.
Following the death of my daughter from SIDS, my close family were incredibly supportive. One of my sisters – Fran – lived very near to us at the time, and, as soon as she knew our baby had died, she immediately came to our home. Fran held me close and cried with me. We usually saw each other every week, but during that awful nightmare she came every day. More than anyone else, she let me know it was alright to cry as much as I needed. I had some brilliant friends who contacted mum, and my sisters and, between them, they made sure I was never on my own.
My close family and friends didn’t ‘go quiet’ after a few months, as so many people do, thinking that we needed time to grieve. They went with their instincts and I had a phone call every day from one of them
When I found that I was pregnant again, they rallied around with support, love and friendship. When both our subsequent children were born they gave us so much support, but made sure we weren’t on our own on the anniversary of Tamzin’s birthday or the date of her death.
The love and support I felt from friends and family during my time of need has helped shape the way I help others.
Following Tamzin’s death, I sought help from The Lullaby Trust, which offers support to families affected by SIDS. I ended up studying for a diploma in Bereavement Counslling and became more involved with The Lullaby Trust’s work, becoming a befriender for the charity. As a befriender, I offer support to other parents who have suffered a bereavement.
The love and support I felt from friends and family during my time of need has helped shape the way I help others. For example, I always say that the parent can say anything they want, that I won’t be embarrassed or judge them, and I always use the baby’s name. If I’m asked about the grieving process, I say that we are all different and grieve in different ways. I’m there for whenever and for how long they need an understanding friend to talk to.
While Tamzin passed away in 1979, SIDS still affects families to this very day. While a definitive cause has yet to be found, breakthroughs in research have found that there are ways to reduce the risk of SIDS
What you can do to help prevent SIDS
To give your baby the safest possible sleep, The Lullaby Trust recommends that parents and caregivers follow their standard safer sleep advice:
- Always place your baby on their back during both day and night time sleeps
- Keep your baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth
- Place your baby in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first six months
- Breastfeed your baby, if you can
- Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition
There are also a number of high risk situations the charity advises parents avoid:
- Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby
- Don’t sleep in the same bed as your baby if you smoke, drink, take drugs, are extremely tired, or if your baby was born prematurely or with a low birth-weight
- Avoid letting your baby get too hot
- Don’t cover your baby’s face or head while sleeping
Baby Loss Awareness Week
October 9-15 marks Baby Loss Awareness Week, a time where families come together to remember those babies who have died suddenly, unexpectedly and much too soon.
Organised by Britain’s leading pregnancy and baby loss charities, including The Lullaby Trust, the week ends with an international Wave of Light, where bereaved families across the world light a candle to commemorate the short time they had with their baby.
If you would like to make a donation during Baby Loss Awareness Week you can do so by texting ‘BLAW15 £5’ to 70070.
With thanks to Kate Younge for sharing her story.