Organisations across Hull and East Yorkshire working together to end unexplained deaths in infancy – also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or cot deaths – have welcomed the announcement of a reduction in figures for Yorkshire and the Humber for 2017.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show rates of SIDS have shown a decrease in England and Wales. For Yorkshire and the Humber the region has seen a 44% decrease in numbers.1
Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council provide a range of health and education advice and guidance programmes to raise awareness of the importance of safer sleeping and stopping smoking during pregnancy.
The significant contribution of local campaigners like Jennifer Wakefield in keeping the issue at the forefront of people’s minds has been recognised, along with national charities like The Lullaby Trust that provide information to families on how to reduce the risk of SIDS as well as training health professionals.
Local mother Jennifer Wakefield, who sadly lost her baby boy Ralph in 2015, said “I’m extremely pleased that the hard work done by everyone has started to bring the numbers down, and that Yorkshire and the Humber have no longer got the highest rates, but there is still work to be done, and, as a bereaved parent, I would be failing in Ralph’s memory if my work with families and professionals stopped. I will continue to campaign and help in any way that I can”.
Nationally, 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. The 2017 figures show SIDS rates have fallen by 3.6% since the previous record low in 2015.2
Programmes in place in the Hull and East Yorkshire region include First Steps to Stopping Smoking, Care of the Next Infant (CONI) which supports families who have experienced or are at a high risk of SIDS and the thriving Maternity Voices Partnerships (MVPs) which bring together women and their families, commissioners, maternity teams including midwives and obstetricians, and other providers, to work as a team to develop local maternity care.
Janet Cairns, Head of Midwifery at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We would like to thank Jennifer for the outstanding work she had done to ensure parents recognise the importance of safer sleeping
“We are pleased to see the hard work undertaken by health professionals and brave mothers like Jennifer, who have experienced the horror of losing a baby to SIDS themselves yet campaign through their grief to prevent it happening to other families, is resulting in a decrease in the numbers of deaths.
“Our midwives, birth educators and midwifery assistants ensure all couples who come to us know how to put their baby down to sleep safely. We show them the right way at our Hey Baby Carousel events, at parenting classes and we reinforce the message before they leave hospital with their new babies.
“One of the best ways a woman can protect her baby from the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is by stopping smoking and our dedicated team of midwives work hard to help women and their partners quit a habit which can put their babies’ lives in danger during their pregnancies.”
Dr James Crick, Consultant in Public Health Medicine and Associate Medical Director at Hull City Council and NHS Hull CCG, said:
“The drop in cases of SIDS is to be welcomed, while remembering that any baby’s life lost is devastating for families. In Hull, we prioritise educating and informing all parents of Safer Sleep practices, with public health, children’s services and NHS staff including midwives and health visitors working closely together.
“It’s vital that this decrease in cases of SIDS does not allow us to become complacent. The importance of placing a baby on their back to sleep cannot be overstated. We understand parents may experience friends or relatives telling them that ‘mum or dad knows best’, or may see conflicting advice on Facebook groups or internet forums. It is essential to remember these people are not medical professionals and that safer sleep advice is based on a wealth of scientific research. While it’s true that many babies were fine when placed on their stomachs to sleep, many were not. Cases of SIDS are higher in babies placed on their sides or fronts to sleep.
“There has also been a significant and effective project around smoking in pregnancy which has seen our numbers of women smoking at the time of delivery continue to fall. Smoking is a well-recognised risk factor for SIDS, and we have invested in working in a targeted way to support women and their partners to quit”.
Since the launch of the Back to Sleep Campaign in England and Wales in 1991, the number of SIDS deaths has fallen by 82%. Safer sleeping messages for parents and their partners are:
- always place your baby on their back to sleep
- place your baby in the “feet to foot” position – with their feet touching the end of the cot, Moses basket, or pram
- keep your baby’s head uncovered – their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders
- let your baby sleep in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months
- use a mattress that’s firm, flat, waterproof and in good condition
- breastfeed your baby, if you can – see benefits of breastfeedingfor more information
- smoke during pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby – both before and after birth
- sleep on a bed, sofa or armchair with your baby
- share a bed with your baby if you or your partner smoke or take drugs, or if you’ve been drinking alcohol
- let your baby get too hot or too cold – a room temperature of 16C to 20C, with light bedding or a lightweight baby sleeping bag, will provide a comfortable sleeping environment for your baby
For more information on the work of The Lullaby Trust visit www.lullabytrust.org.uk
1 – ONS figures quoted on The Lullaby Trust website: https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/professionals/statistics-on-sids/
2 –ONS figures quoted on The Lullaby Trust website: Statistics on SIDS https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/professionals/statistics-on-sids/
Credit: Office of National Statistics, National Records of Scotland and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency 2019)