Southampton health workers join campaign to prevent Sudden Infant Deaths

Mother and baby

Health workers in Southampton are joining a campaign to reduce the number of Sudden Infant Deaths (SIDs) across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The Safer Babies project, which will help midwives and health visitors give parents clear messages about the risks of bed sharing with infants, comes after a successful trial in Portsmouth.

Over 300 babies die each year in the UK from SIDs, the most common cause of death in those aged one week to one year old.

Before the pilot campaign in 2007, led by Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and other health organisations, there were 21 reported SIDs in the city where co-sleeping proved a contributory factor over a three-year period, but the numbers dropped to zero in 2008-09.

Safer Babies, which launches county-wide on Wednesday (7 October), will advise staff to remind parents of the risks associated with co-sleeping before and after birth, and when visiting families at home.

Parents will also be made aware of the need to ensure babies sleep in a cot in the same room as them for the first six months, and that babies should lay on their backs with their feet pointing to the foot of the bed so their heads cannot become covered.

The Southampton initiative is being coordinated by teams from Southampton Community Healthcare, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust and Sure Start Children’s Centres.

Bernie White, locality lead for the health visiting service at Southampton Community Healthcare, said: “This campaign is an opportunity for us to work with our partners in health and the local authority to raise the awareness of SID to parents within Southampton.

“We hope this campaign will help to reduce the incidents of SIDs within the city and across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”

Sandy Denton, specialist midwife for safeguarding children at Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “There are many crucial messages we need to send out to parents.

“We will continue to highlight the importance of breastfeeding and bonding to the health of a baby, however, if mothers feed while in bed, they need to remember to return their baby to his/her cot before going to sleep.”

As the campaign runs throughout the year, staff will also highlight other health issues such as smoking and alcohol that could impact on a baby’s health.

Sandy added: “The trial period in Portsmouth proved just how successful the targeted public campaign on preventing infant deaths can be, so it is great to see the project being rolled out across Hampshire.

“Safer Babies will give us a platform to ensure our messages really do reach out to the community.”

Posted on Monday 5 October 2009