Baby sleeping on back

Rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have shown a decrease in England and Wales according to figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The new figures show that the number of deaths dropped significantly from 226 (a rate of 0.32 deaths per 1,000 live births) in 2016 to 183 (a rate of 0.27 deaths per 1,000) in 2017. This is an improvement on 2016’s figures, which showed that the SIDS rate rose against the trend for the first time in 3 years.

The overall UK rate has also decreased by 18.8% since 2016 and 7.1% since 2015.

Prior to 2013, SIDS rates had not risen for a decade. Rates then dropped again, reaching record lows in 2014 and 2015. The rate of SIDS then rose by 12.5% in 2016 and the 2017 figures released today show SIDS rates have fallen by 3.6% since the previous record low in 2015.

However, The Lullaby Trust the UK’s leading SIDS charity has warned against complacency and urges further action to bring down the rate.

Jenny Ward, CEO of The Lullaby Trust says:

“Whilst it is extremely good news that SIDS has gone down in England and Wales, 183 babies’ lives lost is still too many. We’ve seen through the success of the Back to Sleep campaign that safer sleep saves babies’ lives, so it is vitally important that all parents have access to up-to-date advice. It is essential that all professionals who work with babies and new parents are aware of how to practise safer sleep and able to pass that advice on to parents. With a fall in the number of health visitors and early years services, we are concerned that not all families are receiving adequate support after the birth of their child. Without consistent access to safer sleep information for all families, increases in the number of deaths could occur. If all parents were made aware of how they can reduce the risk of SIDS, we would see a much more significant reduction in the number of babies dying. We strongly urge local authorities to make adequate funding for staff who provide crucial support and advice to new families a top-priority.”

ONS attribute the decrease to a reduction in maternal smoking and increased awareness of safer sleep advice, referencing the NHS, Welsh Government and The Lullaby Trust. The report states:

“This overall decreasing trend in unexplained infant deaths could be driven by the advice and guidance that is available for parents from the NHS, Welsh Government, and charities such as The Lullaby Trust. For example, since 2015, The Lullaby Trust has held an annual awareness Safer Sleep Week Campaign promoting safer sleep advice, where a number of health authorities participated to raise public awareness. The Lullaby Trust has also trained health professionals working with new and expectant parents how to advise on safer sleep practices”

The ONS figures show that the rate of SIDS is highest in the North East with 0.40 deaths per 1,000 live births, 48% above the average rate in England and Wales.

Advice on safer sleep can be found here

To read the full report click here

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