Baby in cotThe latest figures show that the rate of sudden unexplained infant deaths, also known as cot deaths, is at its lowest since records began in 2004.

128 cot deaths occurred in 2014, down from 165 in 2013 and 207 a decade previously, according to a recent publication from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Rosie Amery, from the ONS, said: "A number of factors may have contributed to the fall, including warmer than average temperatures throughout the year, fewer women smoking at the time of delivery and greater awareness of safer sleeping practices."

The ONS also stated that the fall in cot deaths, or sudden infant death syndrome, was driving the downward trend in overall unexplained infant deaths. This is the term given to any death of a child under one year old for which the cause remains undetermined following a full investigation of the incident.

Together these accounted for 8% of all infant deaths occurring in England and Wales in 2014 - 1% lower than in 2013 - with just over half of the victims being boys.

Experts point to overheating as a known risk factor for cot death, particularly during cold winters when parents may be driven to use extra clothing and blankets in an attempt to keep their baby warm, inadvertently making them too hot.

Following the release of the ONS figures, Francine Bates of the Lullaby Trust urged parents to follow the charity’s safe sleeping advice:

  • 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