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How to put your baby to sleep safely—Safe Sleeping Guidelines

Baby sleeping on back in cot

Red Nose Australia provides support for families who suffer the death of a baby. They also help fund research into the causes and prevention of sudden deaths of babies in pregnancy, birth, infancy and childhood.

However, they are best known for their work in reducing the rate of SUDI deaths (Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy). The Safe Sleeping Campaign was introduced in 1990 and from 1989-2018 the rate of SUDI deaths in Australia has decreased by 85 per cent [1].

The Safe Sleeping Campaign aims to provide parents and caregivers with the most up-to-date, evidence-based information on how to reduce the risk of SUDI, which includes sudden infant death and fatal sleeping accidents.

How to put your baby to sleep safely

Safe Sleeping—6 ways to reduce the risk of sudden infant death

  1. Always put baby on their back to sleep. This helps keep their airways clear. Sleeping on their tummy or their side increases the risk of sudden infant death.
  2. Sleep baby with head and face uncovered. This helps to reduce the risk of overheating and keep their airways clear which reduces the risk of suffocation.
  3. Keep baby smoke free before birth and after. Smoking during pregnancy and around the baby once they are born increases the risk of sudden infant death.
  4. Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day. The safest place for a baby is their own safe space with their own safe mattress and safe bedding.
  5. Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult caregiver for the first six to 12 months
  6. Breastfeed baby. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden infant death. For women who aren’t breastfeeding, follow the first five recommendations to help keep your baby safe

Safe Sleeping—Making up your baby’s cot

Safe sleeping guidelines baby

  • Make sure your baby’s head remains uncovered during sleep
  • Use a firm, clean and flat mattress (not elevated or tilted) and make sure it’s the right size for the cot.
  • Tuck in your baby’s blankets in firmly or use a safe baby sleeping bag
  • Make sure your cot meets the current Australian Standard (AS2172)
  • Position your baby’s feet at the bottom of the cot.
  • Put your baby to sleep on their back.
  • Do not use pillows, doonas, soft toys, cot bumpers or lambswool anywhere in the cot.
  • Do not put your baby to sleep on a water bed, bean bag or on the couch.

Safe sleeping: Other hazards to watch out for

The following are things to look out for and avoid where your toddler or baby sleeps—both during the night and for any daytime naps.

Remember to look for these things in your home and anywhere your child is cared for—including day care, childcare centres and the homes of family and friends.

  • an unsupervised adult bed may be unsafe for babies or toddlers if they get caught under adult bedding or pillows, get trapped between the wall and the bed, fall out of bed, are rolled on by someone who sleeps very deeply or who is affected by drugs and alcohol
  • soft sleeping places where a toddler’s or baby’s face may get covered, falling asleep with the baby while on a couch, pillows, cushions or tri-pillows are too soft and can cover baby’s face, don’t put your baby or toddler on a waterbed or beanbag.
  • dangling cords or string near cot—keep the cot away from any cords hanging from blinds, curtains or electrical appliances
  • keep heaters and electrical appliances well away from the cot to avoid the risk of overheating, burns and electrocution
  • prams, strollers and bouncers where restraints are not done up

-written with information from Red Nose Australia

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2003). SIDS in Australia 1981-2000: A statistical overview. ABS, Canberra & Australian Bureau of Statistics (2001-).3303.0 – Causes of Death, Australia, 2001-. ABS, Canberra. Includes calculations prepared by Red Nose and confirmed by the ABS.

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