Mums and mums-to-be in Swindon are being encouraged to be sleep-savvy with their babies as part of a national campaign called Safer Sleep Week, which runs from 14th-20th March.
Nationally five babies die every week without a known cause and evidence shows that following safer sleep advice can help reduce the chances of this happening.
Bed sharing or sofa sharing, smoking, adopting unsafe sleeping positions, alcohol and substance misuse and babies born prematurely or of a low birth weight to young mothers are all factors associated with increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In Swindon and Wiltshire there have been 11 deaths associated with SIDS in the last three years. Although this is a small number compared to over 8,000 births each year, the effects are devastating.
Health Visitors in Swindon are helping raise awareness of the issue to parents and also supporting those directly affected by a sudden unexpected death with a dedicated Care of the Next Infant (CONI) programme. The service supports bereaved parents before and after the birth of their new baby, providing a range of practical help and advice.
This includes regular home visits, monitoring the baby’s growth with a weight chart and scales to detect any changes quickly, training on resuscitation and guidance about suitable bedding and clothing.
Sleeping on back and creating a firm, flat, separate sleeping place as well as a smoke-free environment, room sharing, breastfeeding and dummy use all help to prevent SIDS.
Health Visitor Kate Farnsworth is part of a team of four Health Visitors offering the CONI scheme to families in the Borough.
She said: “We are passionate about implementing the CONI programme in Swindon in order to provide this vital service to families who have suffered the trauma of the sudden and unexpected death of a baby. These parents are often understandably anxious during subsequent pregnancies and after the birth of their new baby- the CONI programme can help to support them through this period.
“There is evidence that informed professional support in the first few months of a baby’s life can help alleviate anxiety and be of value in ensuring appropriate and safe care of the new baby. Families will be offered a structured system of care involving parents, midwife, health visitor, general practitioner and paediatrician. A variety of support measures are available and these are selected by the parents with the advice of their paediatrician and CONI local co-ordinator.”
Cllr Fionuala Foley, Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Member for Children Services, said: “Safer Sleep Week is an important opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and offer advice about how to minimise the risks. The sudden loss of a baby is unimaginable for any parent. Introducing this type of support locally is really positive and we hope that the CONI programme will enhance the health visiting service within Swindon, providing holistic care to some of our most vulnerable families.”
Safer Sleep Week is run by The Lullaby Trust which provides specialist support for bereaved families and anyone affected by a sudden infant death.