The Lullaby Trust has called for urgent action from local authorities to tackle SIDS rates as rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have increased, according to figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The new figures show that the number of deaths increased from 189 in 2017 (a rate of 0.28 deaths per 1,000 live births) to 198 (a rate of 0.30 deaths per 1,000) in 2018. The ONS report states the figures show a “levelling off” of the rates since 2014, with rates remaining static overall during the last 4 years. However, 2018’s figures show a 7% increase from the previous year.
Baby charity The Lullaby Trust has expressed concern over the increase in the number of babies dying and highlights the potential for the COVID-19 pandemic to cause a further rise in the number of sudden infant deaths. A recently released parliamentary report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss, highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy and baby loss, states that lockdown has exacerbated risk factors for some types of baby loss, such as sudden unexpected death in infancy, which can be linked to deprivation. National Child Mortality Database (NCMD) is monitoring the current situation using their real-time surveillance system.
Jenny Ward, CEO of The Lullaby Trust says:
“We are extremely concerned by the increase in SIDS rates in England and Wales. Whilst the ONS describes this as a levelling off, this overall stalling of rates since 2014 is not good enough. SIDS rates are highest in the most deprived areas. We are concerned that the increased pressure placed on public health services by COVID-19, meaning less support for new parents, combined with rising poverty could lead to a further increase in the number of deaths. We strongly urge local authorities to make funding for health visitors and early years staff who provide crucial safer sleep advice to families a public health priority. Only by making all families aware of how they can reduce the risk of SIDS and support them to help protect their babies can we ensure we do not see more lives lost”
The ONS figures show that the rate of SIDS is highest in the North West with 0.41 deaths per 1,000 live births, 37% above the average rate in England and Wales.
The report states maternal age is a risk factor for infant mortality generally and this holds true for unexplained infant deaths. In 2018, the SIDS rate was highest for mothers aged under 20 years, at 1.11 deaths per 1,000 live births and this has remained consistent since 2005.
The Lullaby Trust has relaunched Little Lullaby, its service for young parents under the age of 25 this month with funding from the National Lottery. Little Lullaby offers peer support to young parents to help them feel better informed, more confident and less isolated.