Leeds & West Yorkshire

Cot deaths rate 'highest in Yorkshire'

Stacey and Jayden Whittaker
Image caption Stacey Whittaker's son Jayden died last year

Yorkshire has the highest rate of sudden unexplained infant deaths in the country, latest figures show.

The region bucks the trend nationally, where figures have reached their lowest level on record in England and Wales.

There were 212 unexplained deaths in England and Wales in 2014, a rate of 0.30 deaths per 1,000 live births.

In Yorkshire, there were 30 unexplained deaths in the same year, which is a rate of 0.47 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Unexplained infant deaths include cot deaths and deaths where no cause can be found after a full investigation.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have been falling over the past decade, but the most recent show a sudden spike in Yorkshire.

Stacey Whittaker's son Jayden died in April last year when he was three months old. The cause remains a mystery.

Image caption The reason Jayden died was never known
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionA mother describes the moment she found her baby dead

"I was staying with a friend when it happened and I just remember getting a phone call saying I should go to the hospital," The 19-year-old mother from Barnsley said.

"When we got to the hospital I remember seeing all the police cars and I remember practically running to the entrance and the police officer said to me, 'he's gone.'

"I was told it wasn't anybody's fault and that I could go and see him and have a hold and a cuddle. It took me a while to go in, but in the end I was glad that I got to have that last cuddle."

She continues: "I just wanted it all to be a dream. Not knowing what had happened to him was the most heartbreaking thing of all."

The figures show unexplained sudden infant deaths saw an unexpected rise in 2013, but decreased in 2014 nationally.

Of the 212 recorded in 2014, 128 of those were recorded by a coroner as sudden unexplained infant deaths and the remaining 84 were defined as unascertained.

Kate and Michael Young's daughter died at six weeks old.

The Wakefield couple now work as "befrienders" to support other parents and say more needs to be done to raise awareness of cot death.

Mrs Young said: "The pain is the worst pain that I've ever felt in my life. That pain is something that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

"The physical ache and pain to hold your child, and that child isn't there. And to have to live with that for the rest of your life is truly, truly horrendous."

Francine Bates, chief executive of The Lullaby Trust, a national charity providing expert advice on safer sleep for babies, said: "You've got higher numbers of women who smoke in pregnancy in Yorkshire and Humberside, and you've got higher numbers of women under the age of 20 giving birth to babies, and those two factors alone make the region an area where you are going to see more unexplained infant deaths."

Lowering the risk

  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep
  • Avoid smoking when pregnant or around the baby after it is born
  • Place your baby in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first six months
  • Use a good condition, firm, flat and waterproof mattress for your baby
  • Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
  • Don't sleep in the same bed as your baby if you smoke, drink or take drugs or are extremely tired
  • Avoid letting your baby get too hot
  • Don't cover your baby's face or head while they are sleeping or use loose bedding

Source: The Lullaby Trust

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