The Italian ministry of health has set aside funding to create new centres for research into the prevention of cot deaths. The syndrome which has been recognised and studied in the United States of America for 30 years has been neglected in Italy where there is one cot death for every 1,000 births, more than 500 deaths annually. Recent research reveals that new-born babies should sleep on their backs on a firm mattress with no pillow and should not be kept too covered and hot. The risk of cot death is reduced if the mother does not smoke during her pregnancy. Cot deaths most commonly occur when babies are between 2 and 4 months old, the child dying very quickly in its sleep. 60 per cent of those dying are males.