SWINDON has the lowest infant mortality rate in the south west, according to data from the Office of National Statistics.

In 2012, the infant mortality rate was 2.3 per 1,000 live births, the lowest rate across the south west, including places like Poole, Bristol and Plymouth.

Seven babies under the age of a year old died during that year in Swindon, compared to 27 in Bristol, 13 in Plymouth, and eight in Cheltenham.

The rate was also half that of the national rate of 4.1 per 1,000 live births.

Swindon Council suggest it is due to work to raise awareness of factors that could have an impact on an infant’s health, including smoking during pregnancy.

Cathy Milburn is the group chairman of local charity Swindon Sands – Stillbirth and Neonatal Death – which supports families whose babies have died.

She said the figures were positive but did not take away from parents’ pain.

She said: “Sands works with families that have lost their babies in their first few weeks of life or during pregnancy.

“It’s heart-breaking to lose a baby. I lost my son in the seventh month of my pregnancy and it completely tears you apart. You have build yourself up again.

“I wouldn’t leave the house for months, I lost all my confidence and you sort of forget who you are.

“You think you’re a failure and that it was your fault even though it wasn’t.

“At Sands we have a support line people can call and they have the opportunity to meet other parents who have been in similar situations.

“We do everything we can to help to remember our little ones.

“Some people think that if you just try to forget about it it will get better, but that’s the worst thing you can do.”

The infant mortality rates over a three year period have also been consistently below average at just 3.2 deaths for every 1,000 children under the age of one.

A Swindon Council spokesman said: “The death of an infant is a truly awful thing to happen to any family, so the Swindon figures are encouraging and we hope we continue with this trend. Looking at the three-year average we are also lower than the national average, at 3.2 deaths per 1,000 children aged under one year, compared to the national figure of 4.4, which shows our better performance is consistent.

“We act with various agencies to give advice to parents about the factors that have been shown to have an effect on infant mortality.

“These include encouraging breastfeeding, discouraging both the mother and partner from smoking, and making parents aware of the risks of sharing a bed with the baby.”

To find out more about Swindon Sands visit www.swindonsands.org/index.php or call the Sands support line on 01793 238788.

For more about the national mortality rates, visit www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ vsob1/deaths-registered-area-usual-residence/2012/index.html.