Plea for Safety Amid Rising Figures of Co-Sleeping Baby Deaths


Parents are being encouraged to follow guidance on co-sleeping with infants following the release of new infant death statistics. It has been revealed that over a quarter of infant deaths in Scotland last year were associated with co-sleeping. The NHS has shifted its advice from discouraging bedsharing with babies to providing guidance on how to do so safely.

Solicitor general, Ruth Charteris KC, stated that the data suggests some infants are dying in “high-risk” co-sleeping situations. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has for the first time tracked the number of infants who died while co-sleeping with parents. In 2023, it received reports of 74 deaths of infants under 18 months, with 19 of these deaths occurring while co-sleeping. In several cases, the parent or caregiver had consumed alcohol or drugs.

NHS Scotland now provides advice on safer co-sleeping practices, such as placing babies on their backs, in smoke-free spaces, on firm mattresses, and keeping pillows and bedding clear to prevent suffocation or overheating. Parents are still advised not to share a bed with their baby if they smoke, have consumed alcohol or drugs, or if the baby is underweight.

Dawn Fernand, a mother who lost her seven-week-old daughter Fern in a co-sleeping incident, shared her story to raise awareness about the risks. She emphasized that even without alcohol or drugs involved, bedsharing is still risky.

Ruth Charteris KC expressed her concerns about the findings showing unsafe co-sleeping practices and urged families to follow expert advice. Lynsey Kidd, executive director at the Scottish Cot Death Trust, also expressed concern about the figures and reiterated that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in its own separate space.

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