Players from London Irish Rugby Club have teamed up with their Charitable Foundation and health chiefs to launch a major video campaign aimed at cutting baby deaths.

Six members of the team worked with the Foundation and NHS child safety staff from Berkshire on the video that was launched at the BT Centre in Central London, on Tuesday 25 June 2019 in conjunction with the official launch of the London Irish Foundation.

The video is called Lift the Baby and is aimed at promoting safer sleeping in younger babies.  The move follows figures showing more than 130 babies die in the UK every year in hazardous sleeping circumstances, for example, where a parent or carer falls asleep whilst holding the baby, unwittingly placing the child at risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The risks are exacerbated if the adult has been smoking, drinking, using drugs or heavy medication or is excessively tired. But in most cases, if adults follow the safe sleeping guidelines, these deaths are completely avoidable.

Filming for the video took place at London Irish’s ground, the Madejski Stadium in Reading, and featured six players and their babies. The 90 second film was premiered at the London Irish Foundation launch and is available on YouTube and a range of NHS websites.

The video is the result of a year long piece of work pioneered by Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), East Berkshire CCG and a range of health partners.

Research showed that the bulk of information and support offered to new parents was aimed primarily at mothers, and the health teams wanted to develop something to reach out to new dads.

A series of father’s focus groups and Facebook groups dedicated to dads and male carers were set up to make sure the messages in the video campaign were relevant.

Sarah Bellars, Director of Nursing, East Berkshire CCG, said: “parenting can be stressful and tiring. It is very easy to have your baby sleep on your lap or on your chest, while you take a minute or two to relax. What is clear is that this can be unsafe and unfortunately has resulted in loss of life.

“We need to increase awareness, especially with new dads, who don’t always get lots of information. Parents and caregivers need to remember to ‘lift the baby’ to a safe sleeping place. By spreading these key messages, we can all help to keep our babies sleeping safer for longer.”

Liz Stead, Head of Safeguarding Children at Berkshire West CCG said: “we’re absolutely delighted London Irish Foundation agreed to get involved with this project. This is an extremely important campaign, and to have such a high-profile sports team on board means we’ll get our message out to so many people using London Irish’s wide appeal to people of all ages.

“Whilst the campaign is aimed at fathers, we’re keen for women to heed the Lift the Baby message too.  The loss of a baby, or any child, is absolutely tragic and totally devastating for families and if our safe sleeping video makes an impact and saves just one life it’ll have been worth it,” she added.

Andy Keast, CEO of the London Irish Foundation, said: “we were delighted as London Irish Rugby Club and Foundation to support this ‘Lift the Baby’. We hope this campaign will spread awareness about a very serious issue. If one person can benefit from this initiative, then that will be fantastic".

“Community engagement is fundamental to the work we undertake as a Foundation, which is why it was brilliant to link up with NHS Berkshire on this initiative.

“I would like to thank the players and staff: Matt Rogerson, Pat Cilliers, Franco van der Merwe, Brendan McKibbin, Matt Heeks and Brian O’Leary who were all more than happy to take part and support this” he added. 

A special website has been developed in partnership with the Lullaby Trust and features a link to the video along with a range of safe sleeping advice. www.liftthebaby.org.uk

Jenny Ward, Chief Executive Officer from the Lullaby Trust said: “it’s great to see an awareness raising campaign targeted specifically at dads.  We know that dozing off on a sofa or armchair with a baby is easily done but many parents are not aware of just how dangerous this can be. Sleeping on a sofa or armchair with a baby increases the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by up to 50 times. The video will help to raise awareness amongst new dads and help the, to understand the safer sleep messages.”

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