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Cot death rates remain higher than expected

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The number of unexplained deaths among babies is not reducing fast enough and health officials must do more to prevent cot deaths, a charity has said.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were 221 unexplained infant deaths in England and Wales in 2012.

This equates to 0.30 deaths for every 1,000 live births. In 2011 the rate of unexplained deaths stood at 0.34 deaths for every 1,000 babies born.

The Lullaby Trust said it was “incredibly disappointing” that the rate has not significantly fallen between the two years.

The charity called for health officials and local health authorities to do more to reduce sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

“We are failing hundreds of babies every year and more must be done to make infant survival a priority”

Francine Bates

“It is incredibly disappointing to see the SIDS rate has not significantly decreased and that SIDS accounted for 8% of all infant deaths in 2012. Although any drop is a step in the right direction we are not reducing SIDS fast enough,” said Francine Bates, chief executive of The Lullaby Trust.

“We have one of the highest infant mortality rates in Western Europe which is staggering when we know of measures that can reduce the risk of SIDS and save lives. We are failing hundreds of babies every year and more must be done to make infant survival a priority,” she said.

“In other countries like Holland where SIDS is very low, they apply a concerted strategy to reducing infant deaths and their health professionals consistently give the safer sleep advice to families,” she said. “We worry that complacency is setting in and call on Public Health England and Public Health Wales to work with local authorities to reduce SIDS.

“Since 1989 SIDS has reduced by 70% so we know we can save lives by advising parents on the safer sleep basics such as placing a baby on its back to sleep, temperature control and keeping a baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth,” added Ms Bates.



In July, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence set out new draft recommendations to help cut the number of babies who die from cot death.

It said that new mothers should be taught about the risks of sleeping with their babies and should learn about other safe sleeping habits to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Midwives, GPs and health visitors should also make parents aware that the risk of SIDS is significantly higher if parents drink, smoke or take drugs, the guidance states.

Babies born prematurely or with a low birth weight are at an increased risk of cot death if they sleep with their parents, NICE said.

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