What is infant mortality and how can it be reduced?

WHAT IS INFANT MORTALITY?

Infant mortality is when a child dies before they are 1. It is measured by infant mortality rate (IMR) which is the number of deaths of children under 1 per 1000 births. This has been declining around the world and there are some easy steps parents can take to decrease it further. However, it’s important to remember that we can’t prevent all of baby’s deaths and some are sadly unavoidable.

INFECTIONS

Babies don’t have strong immune systems and find it harder to fight of infections than adults. This is because they aren’t as developed as older people. Once the baby is born, breast milk can help build up their immunity to diseases. One of the main causes of infant mortality is infections that the baby gets during birth. These could be pneumonia, meningitis or gastroenteritis. It is very easy for babies to get infections that their mothers already have. If you think you could have an infection it is a good idea to have to checked, if possible, before giving birth. If you can, try and give birth with someone who is trained or take the baby to see a doctor in the first two days, as they can test for infections.

LOW BIRTH RATE

It has been suggested that 60-80% of baby’s deaths are related to low birth rate. Low birth rate can be caused by having the baby prematurely, low maternal nutrition or low maternal health during pregnancy. This means it is important for pregnant women to try and eat a healty and balanced diet, including lots of fruit and vegetables. They should try and drink lots of fluids, especially water and milk. It is strongly advised that they should try and avoid alcohol during pregnancy as this can slow down a baby’s development.

WHAT IS SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME (SIDS)?

Unfortunately, mothers cannot prevent all causes of infant mortality and many are explained by sudden infant death syndrome. This is when an apparently healthy baby, dies, normally during their sleep. Babies sleeping on their stomach is thought to increase the risk of SIDS so try putting your baby to sleep on their back and check they stay this way. It is important that your baby does not get too hot and overheat so try and keep them in the shade if possible. Babies who are around cigarette smoke are also at a higher risk of SIDS so make sure you don’t smoke, or let other people smoke, around your sleeping baby.

ELEANOR POTTER

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