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Protect our babies from cot death

New figures show higher number of West Lancashire babies are dying from unexplained deaths than national average

A parent holds the hand of a young baby

The number of infants dying from cot death is higher in West Lancashire than the national average.

Statistics from over an eight year period show that nine babies have died due to unexplained causes or sudden infant death syndrome.

Although the rate of deaths could be due to a variety of reasons, a leading UK charity has pointed at the smoking habits across Lancashire.

Gemma Ellis for the Lullaby Trust said: “Smoking rates are higher in Lancashire than across England as a whole and according to Lancashire County Council one in five pregnant women smoke, which greatly increases the risk of SIDS.

“It could also be that new and expectant parent aren’t told about the importance of safer sleep or given guidance – there is a wealth of free and downloadable information available on our website for families  www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safersleep

"Because we don’t know what causes SIDS we don’t know how to prevent it however we have been funding research for over 40 years that has helped us to understand how to reduce the risk of it occurring.

"We can do this by making sure all new parents and carers have access to safer sleep advice which should be applied routinely, even for day time sleeping.

"We know that the safest place for a baby to sleep is on its back, on a firm and flat mattress with a waterproof cover with its feet at the foot of the cot.

"The cot should be free of teddy bears, bumpers and loose bedding. Having a cot in the same room as a parent or carer for at least the first six months of life can halve the risk of SIDS.

"Keeping a baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth can also greatly reduce the risk of SIDS."

The figures release by the Office for National Statistics show that 83% of the 221 unexplained deaths in 2012 happened in first year of life.

Between 2004 and 2012 there were 2,499 unexplained infant deaths throughout England and Wales, but figures are down year on year.

Jane Booth, independent chair of the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board, which promotes the Safer Sleep for Baby campaign, said: “It’s good news that figures are slightly down for unexplained infant deaths, but our work is never done – one avoidable baby death is one too many.

“I’d like to use this opportunity to remind parents of small children that there is straightforward advice on the Safer Sleep for Baby website, which they can find by searching ‘safer sleep’ at www.lancashire.gov.uk .

“It’s an issue that the safeguarding board has campaigned about for some years now in conjunction with our colleagues in health and other agencies. The six steps we suggest for safer sleep are basic common sense – something that parents tend to have in abundance, I find.

“The heartbreak involved in losing a baby is unimaginable and we want to bring local figures down as much as we possibly can.”

Gemma Ellis added:  "Anyone who has experienced the sudden and unexpected death of a baby can call the freephone Lullaby Trust bereavement support Helpline on 0808 802 6868 to speak to someone about their experience.

"For longer term support The Lullaby Trust can match families up with a Befriender, who has experienced a similar loss.

"The Lullaby Trust also have a regional member of staff working in Lancashire who organises annual Family Days for those families who wish to meet Lullaby Trust staff and other families and have a pleasant and supported free family day out."

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