New drive to improve safe baby sleeping

Health visitors should be responsible for discussing safe sleeping practices with vulnerable families with young babies, according to a new report.

Services need to change the way they share information about safe sleeping practices, according to a report produced by the universities of Oxford, Bristol and Newcastle together with University College London.

The report says professionals who work with vulnerable families should have open and honest conversations with parents about why they might choose to sleep in the same bed as an infant.

Changes in advice led to a dramatic reduction in so-called cot deaths in the 1990s but the decline halted in 2014, according to the researchers. Now, 42% of these sudden, unexpected deaths occur in deprived neighbourhoods, they found.

Dr Anna Pease, a research fellow at Bristol Medical School, Bristol University, said: “Families have a right to evidence-based information about how to reduce their baby’s risk of sudden infant death. We know that overall, safer sleep advice has worked to save the lives of thousands of babies, but this approach has not been as effective for families with more vulnerable infants.

“This research really shows how we need to focus on supporting those families who need extra support: tailoring the messages to their circumstances, working with caregiver’s own motivations and instincts, and making sure that these messages come from credible and trusted sources of support.”

Promoting safer sleeping for babies in high-risk groups in England. National Institute for Health and Care Research 2023.

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