BABIES KILLED SLEEPING WITH MUM; Parents warned over danger of cuddling up to children in bed.
SIX babies have died while sleeping beside their parents in Coventry during the past 14 months.
The infants - the youngest just five weeks old and the oldest six months - all died in their parents' beds or while sleeping with their mum or dad on the sofa.
Their deaths have prompted city health chiefs to issue an urgent warning about the dangers of co-sleeping with a baby.
In many cases the exhausted parents resorted to taking their baby to bed because the infant would not go to sleep.
When they woke up their child was lying dead beside them.
Coventry's child death review panel, which examines unexpected infant deaths, believes some or all of the tragedies could have been prevented if the youngsters were sleeping in their own cots.
Panel manager Dara Lloyd said: "As a parent myself I know how tempting it can be to have your baby in bed with you when they won't settle and you're feeling exhausted but it really isn't safe for your baby."
"Even falling asleep whilst feeding your baby can increase the risk of your child suddenly dying."
The victims were aged five weeks old, eight weeks, 11 weeks, three months and two six months olds.
They account for more than half of the 10 youngsters who died of Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDS) in Coventry between October 2007 and December 2008.
All new parents in Coventry and Warwickshire are given information leaflets on how to keep their children safe and verbal warnings from health visitors about the dangers of co-sleeping with their babies. But some parents ignore this advice or forget it when they are trying to get their baby to sleep late at night.
Mums and dads who smoke, or have been drinking or taking drugs, are putting their children at particular risk by co-sleeping with them.
Dr Karen McLachlan, consultant paediatrician, said: "Young babies under the age of one cannot regulate their body temperature and a lot more body heat is generated when babies are sleeping with an adult, particularly if babies are overdressed or covered by a duvet or a number of layers."
She advised that babies be placed on their back in a cot in their parents room and covered with no more than three single layers of a light blanket. The ideal room temperature is between 16-20C.
The cases were investigated by the Coventry child death review panel which was set up in April as part of a national campaign to cut the number of avoidable infant and child deaths.
Anyone with concerns about their baby's health should call their health visitor or GP.
For more information about how to reduce the risk of cot death call the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths on 0207 8202 3200 or visit www.sids.org.uk. For advice on general parenting call Parentline Plus's 24 hour helpline on 0808 800 2222.