Experts ‘concerned’ as number of unexplained baby deaths has risen for the first time in three years

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  • The number of unexplained baby deaths has risen for the first time in three years, according to new data from the Office of National Statistics.

    The new figures show that the number of babies dying from unexplained causes in England and Wales has increased for the first time in three years. In 2016, the total number of deaths caused sudden infant death syndrome (Sids) were 219, compared to 195 the previous year.

    It’s also the highest number since 2013, when there were 252 deaths caused sudden infant death syndrome. The highest rates of Sids were recorded in the Yorkshire, the Humber, north-west of England and West Midlands, where rates by 21.6 per cent between 2015 and 2016.

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    Deaths are recorded as being caused by Sids when no medical cause can be recorded. Sids deaths are unexplained, sudden and unexpected, and even though the exact cause is not known, research has shown that smoking during pregnancy, overheating and an unsafe sleeping environment and exposure to tobacco smoke could be triggers.

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    Speaking about the results, the Lullaby Trust said the new figures were ‘concerning’, and urged local authorities to ensure there’s adequate funding for health visitors to provide advice to new parents so that they know exactly how to best prevent Sids.

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    Francine Bates, chief executive of the Lullaby Trust, said: ‘The previous downward trend in SIDS deaths has been largely attributed to increased awareness of safer sleep advice so it is essential that this remains a top priority for local authorities and all professionals working with families.

    ‘SIDS rates are highest in the most deprived areas and we worry that pressures on local authorities’ public health budgets, and the increasing number of families being pushed into poverty, will lead to slower progress or even further increases in the number of deaths.

    ‘We urge local authorities to ensure there is adequate funding for health visitors and early years staff who provide crucial safer sleep advice to families with new babies.’