Cot death still biggest killer of babies over a week old

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The Independent Online
COT death continues to be the biggest killer of babies over a week old, campaigners warned yesterday, writes Celia Hall.

Although the number of deaths fell by 50 per cent from 1991 to 456 in 1992, Richard Cooke, professor of neonatal medicine at the Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital, said that the causes were still unknown.

Speaking at the launch of National Cot Death Appeal Week, organised by The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, he said that the causes were likely to be a complex mixture of minor abnormalities in the womb which might make a baby vulnerable, exacerbated by other factors including a baby sleeping on its front, being over- wrapped, having a cold or a mother who smoked during pregnancy and afterwards. Between 60 and 75 per cent of the babies who die have mothers who smoke.

Yesterday the Health Education Authority issued its latest guidance to pregnant women on the dangers of smoking. It says there is incontrovertible evidence that women who smoke are twice as likely to have premature babies and to have babies who are lighter by an average of 200g.