Plea issued on co-sleeping safety after 19 babies die in Scotland

In 2023, a quarter of baby deaths reported to authorities resulted from co-sleeping.

Plea issued on co-sleeping safety after 19 babies die in Scotland Getty Images

A plea has been made to parents to listen to co-sleeping safety advice after new figures on deaths of infants were released.

In 2023, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) received reports of 74 deaths of babies. Of those – it has been identified that 19 babies died while co-sleeping.

The Solicitor General Ruth Charteris KC said the figures suggested some babies were dying in “high-risk” co-sleeping situations.

Analysis by COPFS has shown that of those 19 deaths in 2023, 12 involved alcohol and/or drugs consumed by parents and carers before co-sleeping.

While NHS Scotland does not suggest parents never bedshare with babies, it does offer advice on making it safer.  

It says that babies should be placed on their backs, in smoke free-spaces, on firm mattresses with pillows and bedding cleared out of the way to prevent suffocation or overheating.

The Solicitor General said: “Sudden infant deaths are rare but are without doubt one of the most devastating tragedies that a family could experience. I send my deepest condolences to everyone who has suffered such an overwhelming loss.

“The findings of COPFS’s investigations highlight that continuing efforts to promote safer sleep practices with parents are vitally important.

“We can see that overall, safer sleep advice has worked to save the lives of thousands of babies. However, I am saddened and greatly concerned by our findings which show unsafe co-sleeping is still happening.

“I can understand the challenges of getting enough sleep as a family, but expert advice should be followed. The evidence of the cases reported to the Procurator Fiscal shows that, tragically, babies can and do die in high-risk co-sleeping situations.

“It is my sincere hope that by drawing attention to our concerns, prompted by the outcome of our investigations, that the number of baby deaths in which co-sleeping was a preventable factor, can be even further reduced through open conversations about safer sleeping.”

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