The University of Warwick has conducted a review into sudden unexpected deaths in infancy (SUDI) in England.
The results of the study showed that most SUDI cases occurred in hazardous sleep conditions which could have been preventable.
The study ‘Qualitative analysis of serious case reviews into unexpected infant deaths’ used data of infants aged 0 to 2 years old where no clear medical or forensic cause of death was found, from April 2011 to March 2014.
Researchers accessed 27 out of 30 cases that were held during this period.
After analysing the 27 cases, 18 infant deaths occurred in ‘highly hazardous’ sleep environments, with 16 of those involving co-sleeping and 13 of those occurred where the parents had been drunk or had taken drugs.
The Lullaby Trust’s Director of Services, Jenny Ward, said: “We welcome this study, which demonstrates the urgent need to ensure safer sleep advice reaches all parents and carers, particularly vulnerable families where extra support is most needed. While reaching vulnerable parents can be challenging, the study shows it could ultimately save babies’ lives.”
The study found in 18 cases parents did not engage with professionals, 18 families were experiencing alcohol or drug dependency, 14 cases presented parental mental health problems, 13 cases involved parents with criminal records and nine were cases of domestic abuse.
Research Team Leader, Dr Joanna Garstang, added: “Despite 25 years of safe sleep campaigns, some parents are still not receiving, not hearing, not understanding, or choosing not to follow this advice, resulting in many infants being exposed to hazardous sleep situations. Future research needs to focus on how best to support and engage with these vulnerable families.”
The research was published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
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