Spare a Thought for the Families That Have Lost a Baby

23/10/2013 11:45 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

Many of us will be unaware that it's Baby Loss Awareness Week. For the vast majority of families and parents in the UK, this will be a week like many others - rushing between work commitments, picking up the kids and dealing with a multitude of other tasks. But this week, do spare a thought for the families that have lost a baby.

In the UK, the number of babies dying suddenly and unexpectedly remains stubbornly high compared to other Western European countries. Over 300 babies still die every year as a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the UK. The term SIDS describes the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently well baby, and is sometimes referred to as 'cot death.' The majority of these deaths occur in babies aged between 1 month and one year. Although sadly, a small number of babies who die are toddlers under two years of age,

Although these deaths are rare, they represent a significant fear for new parents. Research by Bounty Parenting Club in partnership with safer baby sleep charity, Lullaby Trust, showed that more than half (62%) of all parents with a baby under 6 months old worry that their newborn may die suddenly and unexpectedly in their sleep.

There are actions parents can take to reduce the chance of SIDS. The Lullaby Trust provides specialist support for bereaved families and promotes advice on safer baby sleep. Following the Department of Health's decision in 2010 to only provide information on SIDS for new parents online, the Lullaby Trust teamed up with Bounty and the Gro Company to develop a new guide containing vital safer sleep information which will now be available in free Bounty packs, given to 2,000 new mums a day in maternity wards across the UK. The guide explains that parents should always place the baby on their back to sleep, put the baby to sleep in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as parents for the first six months and use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition.

The guide also explains things to avoid including, sleeping on a sofa or in an armchair with the baby or sleeping in the same bed as the baby if the parent smokes, drinks, has taken drugs or is extremely tired. This also applies if the baby was born prematurely or was of low birth-weight. In addition, the Lullaby Trust explains that parents should avoid letting their baby get too hot and covering the baby's face or head while sleeping.

Research shows there is a 50-fold increase in the risk of babies dying suddenly or unexpectedly if parents sleep with a baby on a sofa or an armchair. It also shows that the risk for a baby under six months old is increased if they sleep in their own bedroom.

The Bounty Parenting Club survey also highlighted that despite their fears, parents admitted that they were not following safer sleep advice. Half (50%) admit to having fallen asleep on a sofa or armchair with their baby at least once and 43% said they had moved their baby into their own room before they were six months old.

It is evident that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the ways to prevent the biggest health fear for mothers, SIDS The Department of Health and all public health bodies should prioritise action on reducing infant mortality rates in the UK and set a target to reduce the numbers of babies who die from SIDS by half by 2020. In the meantime, we hope this guide will be a timely reminder for new mums across the UK to get the support and information they need right at the start of their new baby's life.

Clare Goodrham, General Manager, Bounty

Francine Bates, Chief Executive, Lullaby Trust