Grandparents targeted in new Lancashire campaign to ensure babies sleep safely

Dr Nicola Bamford and Mike Leaf with the Safer Sleep campaign literature
Dr Nicola Bamford and Mike Leaf with the Safer Sleep campaign literature
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A new campaign will be launched in Lancashire tomorrow to alert grandparents to the latest advice on safer sleep for babies. FIONA FINCH reports on why grandpas and grandmas are being targeted to help keep infants safe.

Hush now baby it’s time to sleep.There is nothing more instinctive than cuddling your baby and soothing an infant to sleep ... except of course when they won’t sleep.

But - and there’s a big but - exhausted parents and carers can harm their much loved baby by unwittingly falling asleep on them, or allowing them to sleep in unsafe situations, where a baby could suffocate.

In the last four years there have been 37 deaths in Lancashire where unsafe sleeping has been a factor.

Now, in a bid to prevent further deaths, a campaign has been launched to enlist the help of grandparents to get Safer Sleep messages across to those on the frontline of baby care .

The campaign, launching on Wednesday (March 27), will also update grandparents with the latest safer sleep advice.

Leaflets and posters will be sent out this week in a cross county campaign lead by Safeguarding Lancashire.

The Lancashire, Blackpool and Blackburn Safeguarding Children Boards have worked together on the joint safety drive.

It will equip grandparents with the knowledge to be influencers of a good practice and good carers themselves.

Dr Nicola Bamford, a consultant paediatrician who specialises in safeguarding and is based in Wesham and Colne, explained they had decided to think "outside the box" when creating the new campaign: “We’ve had safer sleeping messages for parents for many, many years. Then we tried thinking out of the box. Who are our biggest supporters for our parents? Their parents!”

Guided also by an awareness that there is much misleading information online and on social media this was a chance to get a more direct contact with a new target audience.

Dr Bamford is the lead doctor for the county's Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) which meets monthly for a multiagency review into the death of any young person who has died in the county before their 18th birthday. She said: “It’s a heart rending day and we are very keen to do what we can to reduce the amount of suffering that we know goes on.

“We know that behind every child is a family with parents, grieving aunts, uncles, neighbours and friends all of whom are deeply affected by the loss of that child.”

Dr Bamford and Mike Leaf, the independent chairman of the CDOP, know that if there have been 37 deaths then hundreds of people will have been affected

Dr Bamford said: “We look at what could have been done to prevent this child’s death and what could we do to prevent other deaths in the future? That’s our big question.”

There is also an awareness that grandparents - the biggest influencers on parents’ behaviour - may themselves not be up to date on current advice and not realise the risks of oversleeping, where a parent may roll over in their sleep and smother a baby who is sleeping with them on a chair, sofa or bed.

Mike, a former director of public health, stresses if you have never come across such a case you will remain in ignorance of those risks: “If you’ve not had a catastrophe like a death in the family or know of somebody who has had a death like this then you can see how some of the other unhealthy messages might be promulgated.”

Dr Bamford stressed: “The safest place for your baby to sleep is in their own cot in the same room as you or your children.

“The big one is don’t sleep with any child on a sofa - that’s the most important thing in our experience.”

Co-sleeping with a baby in a bed also is a major concern.

She stressed that risks multiply if anyone holding the baby falls asleep having taken alcohol or drugs or is extremely fatigued themselves.

Mike added: “There are a significant number of children who die through oversleeping and they are all preventable deaths.”

There is concern because after a sharp drop in infant deaths after sleep campaigns in the 1980s, initially launched by TV presenter Anne Diamond, numbers of deaths have plateaued in the last decade.

Dr Bamford said: “Who knows what those children would have gone on to do or could have done? It’s more than a class of children every four years. It’s heartreaking on that panel to go through case after case and hear those stories.”

The new leaflets and posters offering advice will be distributed to venues including health centres and libraries.

* For further information see www.lancashire.gov.uk and search for “safer sleep for baby” www.lullabytrust.org.uk has a video on a safe night’s sleep

SIX STEPS TO SAFER SLEEP

The new leaflet advises how to support your grandchild to safer sleep:

1. Keep your grandchild’s head and face uncovered and make sure they don’t get too hot

2. Never fall asleep with your grandchild after drinking, taking drugs or some prescription medication

3. Put your grandchild to sleep in a cot crib or moses basket - never fall asleep with them on a sofa or chair

4. Put your grandchild to sleep on their back with their feet to the foot of the cot

5. Keep your grandchild away from smoke, before and after their birth

6.Support your grandchild’s parents if they want their baby to breast feed - further support is available if they need it

* It is known infants under 12 months of age are more at risk from unsafe sleeping/oversleeping

* The ideal room temperature for a sleeping infant is between 16C and 20C. Swaddling can over heat babies. Use thin cellular blankets or sleeping bags for babies over four weeks.