NEW guidance following studies by North-East experts should give parents reassurance over safe sleeping for their babies.

Durham University researchers teamed up with the Lullaby Trust, Public Health England and Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative to draw up recommended information for health professionals and parents.

It recognises for the first time that parents will sometimes prefer to sleep with their babies in the same bed and gives some guidance for safer bed-sharing.

The research partners came together in the light of the recent rise in deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

They want all new parents to know what to do to keep their babies safe while sleeping to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Professor Helen Ball, director of the Durham Infancy and Sleep Centre at Durham University, said: “Many new parents, nowadays, are unfamiliar with SIDS and the reasons for having infant sleep safety guidance.

“The aim of these new resources is to increase parental awareness and understanding.”

It will be a new addition to the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative, an accredited programme for hospitals and other health services for children and babies.

The addition of safer sleep to the programme means more new parents will receive the information when it is most needed.

Most maternity units and health visiting services across the UK are already working towards the accreditation.

The partnership has also put together a guide for health professionals, such as midwives and health visitors, to help them talk to parents about safe sleeping.

Guidance stresses the importance of having open and non-judgemental conversations with parents, including about bed-sharing.

It will be available via Durham’s Baby Sleep Info Source (Basis), an online resource with information about infant sleep, based on research findings.

The guide gives information on the key actions parents can take to reduce the risk of SIDS, such as sleeping baby on his or her back on a clear flat sleep space, breastfeeding, and avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy and after birth.

In addition to cot safety, the guide also gives information on bed sharing safety.

Jenny Ward, chief executive of The Lullaby Trust, said: “We’re delighted to work in partnership with Public Health England, Unicef UK and with Basis at Durham University.

“Although the number of SIDS deaths has declined over the past 25 years, the recent rise in rates has demonstrated the importance of all parents having access to safer sleep information.

“Around five babies still die of SIDS every week in the UK. This partnership will save lives by ensuring more parents receive and understand information on how to reduce the risk of SIDS.”

More information on safer sleep for babies can be download via