What is cot death?

Cot death is when a previously healthy baby or child dies suddenly and unexpectedly, and a cause of death cannot be found. In other words, these are healthy babies and children who die for no apparent reason. Other terms such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) may be used instead of cot death.

While SUDI is most common for infants under 6 months of age, it can occur in children aged between 6-12 months and occasionally in children older than 12 months. SUDI does not always happen in a cot: it can occur wherever an infant is sleeping, and very rarely while an infant is awake. There is no sign of a struggle, or of any distress.

The causes of cot death are not yet fully understood, although we have a growing knowledge of risk factors associated with it. Research continues to help us understand more about it. For more information on research, please click here.

Despite being very rare, SUDI is the most common cause of death for infants between 1 and 12 months old. In Scotland, a child dies from SIDS every 9 days.

Cot death is, sadly, not always preventable. However, following the safety guidelines can reduce the risk of cot death occurring, especially when it may be the case that an infant has died in an unsafe sleep environment due to a sleep accident.