Safe sleep practices for your baby

A room that holds a sleeping baby can seem like the most peaceful place on earth.

So it’s easy for new parents to think no harm will come to their sleeping baby.

But every year in Australia, about 130 babies die unexpectedly in their sleep due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Although the exact cause of these deaths is unknown, researchers think it has to do with the ability of some babies to rouse from sleep if, for some reason, they have difficulty breathing.

Leading authority on SIDS, Red Nose Australia, has formulated six recommendations for safe sleep practices for babies less than 12 months old. They are:

  • Sleep baby on their back
  • Keep face and head uncovered
  • Keep baby smoke-free before and after birth
  • Maintain a safe sleeping environment night and day
  • Sleep baby in a safe cot in parents’ room
  • Breastfeed baby

What is a safe sleeping environment?

Although babies can fall asleep anywhere, it is important that they be moved to a safe sleeping environment as soon as possible.

A safe sleeping environment:

  • features a cot that meets Australian Safety Standard AS/NZ 2172:2003
  • contains a mattress that is firm, flat, clean and in good condition. Importantly, the mattress must be well fitted with no more than 20mm of space between the cot sides or ends when centred.
  • allows baby’s airway to extend. This means removing baby from car seats, bassinettes and rockers as soon as is practical after they fall asleep.

When placing baby in the cot:

  • always place baby on their back and make sure their feet are right at the end of the cot so they can’t wriggle down under the blankets during their sleep
  • tuck bedding in to the level of the chest so that blankets cannot cover their face during the night. Or use a safe sleep suit instead. It must be well fitted, with arm holes and no hood
  • ensure there are no toys, bumpers or comforters in the cot with baby
  • use a light blanket and dress your baby in a way that will not cause them to overheat
  • remove necklaces, ties or bows from around baby’s head, face and neck as they could tighten during sleep and make breathing difficult
  • make sure the cot is placed away from heaters, power points, lights, hanging mobiles and cords from curtains or blinds.

Should I swaddle my baby?

Many parents will recognise that wrapping or swaddling is a useful way of helping baby settle and stay asleep. It has also been shown to improve the baby’s stability and may help them remain on their back.

But when choosing to wrap a baby, parents must consider the baby’s stage of development. It is very important to stop wrapping baby as soon as they start showing signs of rolling over. This is often when the baby is between four and six months of age but some babies will begin rolling over earlier.

You should never wrap a baby who is wearing a sleep suit.

How can I ensure my baby sleeps safely at childcare?

Childcare providers are required to comply with national laws and regulations that protect children from harm and hazards.

This means educators and service providers are legally obliged to follow the Red Nose recommendations for safe sleep practices, even when parents request otherwise.

The only situation in which safe sleeping practices may be modified at childcare is when parents supply the educator or service with a certificate from their doctor.

In this case, parents can talk to the service about conducting a risk assessment and risk minimisation plan for their baby.

Learn more about safe sleeping on the Red Nose website.



Published — 30 July 2019 Last updated — 31 July 2019

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