x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE nannies should be regulated, doctor says

Nannies in the UAE should be regulated and given extra training in order to reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, an American doctor said yesterday.

American sees need for training on how a baby should sleep Eugene Harnan Abu Dhabi // Nannies in the UAE should be regulated and given extra training in order to reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids), an American doctor said yesterday. Speaking at an event organised by Al Corniche Hospital in the capital, Edward Lawson, the chief of neonatology services at the Baltimore, Maryland-based Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said training programmes should be set up to teach nannies the specifics of child care, including the correct way a baby should sleep - on their backs.

There are 0.66 Sids deaths per 1,000 live births in the UAE, according to a 2008 study conducted by Al Ain University, a figure comparable to rates in the US, Dr Lawson said. However, he said "much more" could be done to reduce child deaths. "It scares me because they [nannies] are completely unregulated and I'd say a lot of them are quite young," Dr Lawson said in an interview at the event. "I don't know if it could be done in the UAE, but it would be very logical to have a training programme for how to take care of a child. Sids is not the only thing that would be prevented, but it would certainly be at the top."

Maids and nannies are commonplace across the Gulf. According to figures cited by Dr Nizar al Ani, the director of the University College for Mothering and Family Science in Ajman, maids take care of 80 per cent of parental tasks and responsibilities for children in Gulf families. In the US, a study found that 40 per cent of daycare workers were unaware of the "Back to Sleep" campaign, which was started in 1994 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to teach the correct way a child should sleep. The study recommended a teaching kit and conducted classes on chid care.

Dr Lawson said it would not be an expensive programme to run. "You just need an instructor, and a short bit of teaching," he said. He said a cluttered cot also increased the change of Sids because a baby can choke on an object. It is also important for a baby to keep a steady temperature and not to get too hot, he said. "A firm mattress, a single sheet, and the baby sleeping at the foot of the bed is the best advice given," he said.

He said the main challenge today is to reverse a habit that was taught for the past 50 years, that babies should sleep on their stomachs. eharnan@thenational.ae