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Twenty baby deaths in five years on Merseyside because of co-sleeping
PUBLIC health experts have reinforced warnings against sleeping in a bed or on a chair with baby after alarming figures revealed 20 deaths in Merseyside over the past five years.
They refused to release specific statistics for St Helens but stressed that the regional death toll was “unacceptably high”.
All the babies were under four months and died in circumstances involving co-sleeping. This term is used when a baby sleeps with a parent/guardian in the same bed or on a chair.
The risks are that the child could dangerously overheat - under a duvet next to adult bodies - or, in the worst case scenario, suffocate.
There have also been cases where babies have died after slipping off a sleeping parent and falling between the back of a sofa or armchair and the cushions.
Dangers are heightened when parents have been smoking, drinking or using drugs.
Margaret Jones, consultant in public health and co-chair of Merseyside child death overview panel, which reviews all deaths in children from birth to 18 years, said: ‘We have been extremely concerned that the numbers of these deaths coming to the panel for review are unacceptably high.
“If a young baby is sleeping in your bed rather than a cot, apart from the risks of them falling out and injuring themselves, the more serious risks are that the child could dangerously overheat (under a duvet next to adult bodies) or in the worst case scenario, could suffocate.
“This danger is hugely increased when one or both parents have been smoking, drinking or using drugs, as this can mean that the parent is far less capable of detecting when their child is in distress or danger.
“There have been several local cases where a parent has been under the influence of drugs or alcohol and has appeared to roll on top of the baby whilst sleeping, suffocating the child.”
Fiona Johnstone, a public health for Wirral after formerly holding the same role in St Helens, said: “We want to reduce the chance of further tragic deaths by offering some very basic safe sleeping advice.
“We are aware that many women choose to feed their babies in bed. The advice remains clear for everyone: once your baby has been fed, the safest thing to do is to put them in their cot to sleep.
“We’d also like to raise parents’ awareness of the danger to babies of falling asleep with them in armchairs or on a sofa.
“While this might at first appear to be relatively safe, it is actually more dangerous than co-sleeping in a bed.
“It is very easy for small babies to slip off the sleeping parent and fall between the back of the sofa/armchair and the cushions.
“In too many cases, this has resulted in the death of a young child.”
Advice for parents/guardians is as follows:
• The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot
• Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or an armchair
• Do not take your baby into bed with you if you have been smoking, drinking or taking drugs If you would like further information on safe sleeping, ask a midwife or health visitor.
Alternatively visit www.nhs.uk
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