THE number of infant deaths has fallen to the lowest level ever recorded, new figures have revealed.
There were 3,025 infant deaths in England and Wales in 2011 of babies aged under one year, down from 3,077 the year before and 7,021 in 1981.
The infant mortality rate stood at 4.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, also the lowest ever recorded, down from 11.1 deaths per 1,000 in 1981, a reduction of 62 per cent.
In Yorkshire, there were 66,500 births in 2011 and a total of 317 infant deaths, a rate of 4.8 per 1,000, which is the second highest rate of any region, behind only the West Midlands.
Infant mortality rates were lowest for babies of mothers aged 35 to 39 at 3.7 deaths per 1,000 live births and highest for babies of mothers aged over 40, which stood at 5.5 deaths per 1,000.
Experts say the overall fall in the rate of infant deaths over the last 30 years has been due to general improvements in healthcare, midwifery and neonatal intensive care.
Babies born with very low birthweights, which can be caused by a number of factors including smoking, are at highest risk of infant death.
Rates of stillbirth across England and Wales stood at 5.2 per 1,000 births. There were 380 recorded in Yorkshire at a rate of 5.7 per 1,000 births, again the second highest, this time behind the North East.