Norfolk baby deaths report highlights co-sleeping fears

A sleeping baby Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Experts recommend that babies sleep in the same room as parents for the first six months

A fresh warning about the dangers of parents sleeping with their babies has been made after two deaths in a county.

Both victims, just a few weeks old and from separate families, suffocated while sleeping with their parents who had taken alcohol and drugs.

Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board (NSCB) has carried out a serious case review into the deaths in 2016 and 2017.

It said the deaths highlighted the "dangers of co-sleeping with infants".

The first child's mother and both parents of the second baby were convicted of neglect.

Both victims lived in overcrowded housing, with parents known to have substance misuse problems, and were involved with social services.

How to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids)

  • Place your baby on their back to sleep, in a cot in the same room as you, for the first six months
  • Don't smoke during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and don't let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
  • Don't share a bed with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you take drugs or you're a smoker
  • Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or an armchair
  • Don't let your baby get too hot or cold
  • Keep your baby's head uncovered. Their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders
  • Place your baby in the "feet to foot" position, with their feet at the end of the cot or Moses basket

Source: NHS website

The serious case review made 14 recommendations including that the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board should relaunch its safer sleeping guidelines and ensure all professionals working with families with babies were familiar with them.

It also noted that pre-birth and social work assessments were delayed and did not consider the impacts of a new baby on the families.

The author also said there were shortfalls in communication within and between agencies involved with the families, which may have contributed to the overcrowded housing issues not being resolved.

In both cases it was documented that routine antenatal advice, including safe sleeping guidance, was given to the mothers by health visitors but not specifically to the fathers.

NSCB chairman David Ashcroft said there had since been "widespread work" in Norfolk to raise awareness and the deaths highlighted the "dangers of co-sleeping with infants, particularly while under the influence of drugs or alcohol".

"I hope this serious case review... helps to keep other children safe."

A project has also been launched to help improve communication with fathers in the county.

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