University of Bristol

Cutting the rate of cot death

In the mid-1980s the number of babies dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had increased in many countries, but no one knew why. Peter Fleming, Professor of Infant Health and Development Physiology at the University of Bristol had begun the Avon Cot Death Study when he read a Dutch report indicating that the risk of cot death was higher when babies slept on their front.

Fleming analysed the Avon data and it revealed that 93% of the babies who had died had been sleeping on their front. In 1991, after a second study, Fleming partnered with TV Presenter Anne Diamond and the government to launch a highly successful Back to Sleep campaign. The research is thought to have saved the lives of 20,000 babies across the UK, and changed parenting advice across the world.

Further reading