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 from 213 (a rate of 0.32 deaths per 1,000 live births) in 2018 to 170 (a rate of 0.27 deaths per 1,000) in 2019. This is an improvement from 2018 where rates increased from the previous year. However, it is likely that the coronavirus pandemic has caused delays to coroner proceedings and so some deaths that occurred in 2019 may not be included in the current 2019 data. 

The Lullaby Trust, the UK’s leading SIDS charity, urges that more needs to be done to tackle inequality and deprivation and the impact it has on the rate of SIDS.  

Earlier this year, a report from the National Child Mortality database found a clear association between the risk of child death and social deprivation in England, including sudden infant death. 

The Lullaby Trust also remains concerned by the impact of delays in the coronial process on families. For families, an inquest is often an incredibly difficult process to go through, and further delays as a result of the pandemic may mean that families will have to continue to go through the details of their baby’s death, as part of this process, many months after they died.  

Jenny Ward CEO of The Lullaby Trust says: 

‘Whilst we cautiously welcome the reduction is SIDS rates in 2019, the delay in coroner proceedings means that this figure is likely to change next year. We understand that this delay is also likely to be very difficult for some families. The reduction in SIDS rates over the last 10 years shows that safer sleep is essential in saving babies’ lives. However, we are concerned about the inequalities in the rate of SIDS across the country, particularly for Black Caribbean babies, those born to Mothers under the age of 20, and those who are born in more deprived areas. In order to save more babies’ lives, action needs to be taken to identify and address the needs of families who are at a higher risk of their baby dying of SIDS. The need for this support is even more pressing now due to the impact of COVID-19, as we are concerned that the increased pressure placed on public health services, meaning less support for new parents, could lead to a further increase in the number of deaths.’ 

In 2019, The Lullaby Trust, Public Health England, Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative and Basis (Baby Sleep Info Source, Durham University) collaborated to create a range of resources for parents and health professionals. The resources provide information and guidance for parents on reducing the risk of SIDS, and have been given to parents across the country since their release. The Lullaby Trust also run a young parent project called Little Lullaby. Mothers under 20 are 5 times more likely to lose a baby to SIDS than Mothers aged 40 years and older. Little Lullaby works with young parents to provide support and information on how to reduce the risk if SIDS.  

To read the full report, please click here.

For more information about how we support families affected by SIDS and loss, head to our Bereavement Support page on our website:

Bereavement support after the death of a baby or child – The Lullaby Trust