Coroner warns parents to avoid tragedy by not co-Sleeping with their babies
A retiring West Yorkshire coroner has pledged a final message to families in the county highlighting the dangers of co-sleeping with newborn babies.
Roger Whittaker, who has now retired from his 15-year career as a coroner, wants to drive home the message that the safest place for babies under six months to sleep is in a cot or a crib in their parents’ room.
Research has shown that there are around 300 sudden infant deaths in the UK each year and 17 of these occur in West Yorkshire. Unsafe sleeping practices contribute to these deaths, including in some cases ‘overlying’, where babies are accidentally suffocated by a parent while co-sleeping on a bed or sofa.
Incidents of this nature have reduced since the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign was launched nearly 20 years ago. The message was to put babies to sleep on their backs with their feet at the foot of the cot or crib. However, there are still families who are affected by the tragic preventable death of their child.
“Even though the numbers of sudden infant deaths are reducing, 17 each year in West Yorkshire is still far too high,” said Mr Whittaker.
“The risk of infant death is heightened when parents smoke, consume alcohol, drugs or some medications and/or are very tired. Babies sleeping on a sofa or in a car seat for a long period of time are also at risk.
“Baby deaths are very distressing for everyone and I want to ensure that parents of newborns are listening to the advice that is out there and taking simple measures to keep their child as safe as possible.”
A recent West Yorkshire- wide study has shown that around one in three sudden infant deaths happened when babies were sharing adult beds or sleeping on a sofa or car seat.
Dr. Sophie Egerton, Public Health Registrar, said: “There are several theories which help to explain why sharing a bed or sofa with a young infant, with other risk factors, can increase the risk of sudden infant death.
“A baby’s airway can be blocked if its chin is pushed into the chest. By sleeping in a cot or a crib, it provides a flat and firm surface which prevents the baby’s head from being forced into its chest.
“Babies can easily get trapped between the back of a sofa and cushions and they are more likely to roll from their back onto their front if sharing a soft mattress or sofa with an adult who is moving about.
“The message is clear, by putting your baby in a cot or a crib, you are reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.”
Detective Chief Superintendent, Andy Brennan, head of West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “West Yorkshire Police have a duty to investigate all deaths, including baby deaths and these are without doubt one of the most distressing times for any parent and their families.
“The Force has been working very closely with both HM Coroners – Mr Whittaker and Mr Hinchcliffe, together with the NHS to raise awareness of the risks and dangers of co-sleeping with babies and it is vital that we get these important messages across.”