In the United Kingdom, the SIDS rate has risen for the first time in three years. The number of babies dying due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or other unexplained causes, has increased, according to recent data.
New statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show an increase in SIDS in 2016.
Infant deaths related to SIDS are tracked, so as to research the most effective ways to assess risk factors, and reduce the risk of SIDS.
The ONS figures show an increase from 195 SIDS related deaths in 2015, to 219 SIDS related deaths in 2016.
In most developed countries, the overall risk of SIDS remains low, with rates near or below 1 in 1,000. Any rise in the number of deaths, however, is a public health concern.
Why? Because research shows there are many ways to reduce the overall risk of SIDS. Although SIDS related deaths are not preventable in all cases, it’s important to reduce risks wherever possible.
SIDS Rate Has Risen In UK For The First Time In Three Years
The Lullaby Trust is a registered charity in the UK. It is dedicated to researching SIDS and educating the public, in an effort to reduce SIDS rates.
Any death is of major concern, but when we see an increase in the number of deaths due to one particular cause, it’s important to investigate the reasons.
By following SIDS rates closely, professionals can better understand potential risk factors, monitor the efficiency of public health campaigns and education, and come up with new ways to bring SIDS rates down again.
The Lullaby Trust organisation is concerned that growing inequality, recent cuts to public health funds, and a lack of parental support might be having a direct impact on the rise in SIDS.
“We are deeply concerned by the increased SIDS rate in England and Wales. 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”, said Francine Bates, CEO of The Lullaby Trust.
A 2016 study found 91% of parents placed their one month old infants in unsafe sleep situations, validating Bates’ concerns.
What Causes SIDS?
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about working to reduce SIDS is the lack of complete certainty about what causes it.
As mentioned above, SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It is sometimes referred to as ‘cot death’.
SIDS falls under an umbrella term – Sudden Unexcepted Death in Infancy (SUDI) – which also includes fatal sleep accidents.
SIDS is the term used when there’s no known cause of death, and where fatal sleep accidents have been ruled out, to the best of the professionals’ understanding.
There are several theories related to causes of SIDS: hereditary factors; congenital hormonal and chemical imbalances; and possible environmental causes.
Despite existing theories, we aren’t sure what causes SIDS. There are, however, ways to reduce the risks.
How Can We Prevent SIDS?
Without knowing the exact cause of SIDS, it’s impossible to identify any single thing that might completely prevent it.
However, research has consistently shown that practising safe sleep, and making certain other choices, can greatly reduce infants’ risk of SIDS and SUDI.
According to current recommendations, these are the things you should do, to reduce your infant’s risk:
- Use a flat sleep surface, free of entrapment and suffocation risks (e.g. a crib or bassinet with only a fitted sheet)
- Sleep within arms’ reach of your baby for the first 6-12 months of her life
- Quit smoking before, or as soon as possible after, becoming pregnant. Don’t expose baby to second hand smoke after birth
- Breastfeed whenever possible
- If you co-sleep, be sure to follow all safety guidelines and never sleep with a baby in an armchair or on the couch
- Always place baby to sleep on her back, never on her stomach or side. Once baby can roll on her own, it’s fine if she does. However, you should always place baby on her back to sleep.
- Do not allow baby to sleep unattended in a car seat (outside the vehicle), in a swing, or in other baby gear not approved for unattended sleep.
Be sure to read What Is SIDS? 6 Things Families Need To Know. You can learn more about how to reduce the risk of SIDS, while maintaining a healthy understanding of the low risk. It’s very important for parents to be educated, but you needn’t be in constant fear.
A rise in SIDS is always a concern, in any country. Although we might not be able to prevent every case, research shows there are many variables we can work with, to reduce the numbers as far as possible.
As a parent, stay informed about up to date safe sleep recommendations. Following them is the best thing you can do to reduce your child’s risk of SIDS or SUDI.