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1.2.8 Safe infant sleeping

Last Modified: 23-Sep-2019 Review Date: 02-Jul-2018

Purpose

To provide information and practice guidance to staff on safe infant sleeping practices and the risks of co-sleeping where the Department of Communities (the Department) has an ongoing role working with families and carers with infants.

Practice Requirements

 
  • All parents or carers with infants must be advised of the increased risk to the child and the link to Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (SUDI) including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) where co-sleeping occurs with other issues, such as being on medication, substance use and smoking. 
  • Where these risk factors are identified, child protection workers and Best Beginnings home visitors must give the parents with information on the risks of co-sleeping, and record on file that information has been given to and discussed with the parents. 
  • Child protection workers and Best Beginnings home visitors must provide this information in the first four weeks from the baby's birth (where involved). 
Process Maps

Not applicable

Procedures

  • Overview
  • Factors increasing co-sleeping risks
  • Sudden Unexplained Deaths in Infancy
  • Overview

    The Department is aware of the risks associated with co-sleeping and provides guidance to families and carers to avoid these risks and safely care for their children.

    Co-sleeping is the practice of a parent (or any other person) being asleep on the same sleep surface as an infant. 

    Infants up to 12 months of age are at risk, with those less than four months at most risk.

    We work with many families where the risks associated with co-sleeping practices may be increased due to factors such as substance abuse, smoking and being on medication.

    As part of making assessments, child protection workers and Best Beginnings home visitors need to consider the sleeping arrangements of families with babies, both at the families' primary residences and other sleep locations such as the homes of friends or relatives. 

    When working with a family with an infant, child protection workers and Best Beginnings home visitors advise about co-sleeping and factors that increase or reduce this risk. Child protection workers and Best Beginnings home visitors must do this in the first four weeks of the baby's birth (where involved), and, where appropriate, provide information and the following resources:

    • Women and Newborn Health Service of WA: Safe Infant Sleeping Information for Parents, Carers and Families
    • SIDS and Kids WA: Reducing the Risk of SUDI in Aboriginal Communities
    • SIDS and Kids webpage: Safe Sleeping in Other Languages, and 
    • Quitnow webpage: Pregnancy and Quitting for information on:
      • the impact of smoking during pregnancy
      • the effects of second-hand smoke on infants, and
      • smoking and SIDS.

    Child protection workers and Best Beginnings home visitors may also provide the family with additional information and resources from the SIDS and Kids WA - Safer Sleep website.  

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    Factors increasing co-sleeping risks

    There is evidence that co-sleeping is associated with a greater incidence of SUDI. The risks associated with co-sleeping are increased when:

    • the parent or carer has consumed alcohol or used illicit drugs
    • the parent or carer has taken any medication which may alter consciousness or cause drowsiness
    • either the parent or the carer is a smoker, and/or
    • the mother smoked during pregnancy.

    Other factors that increase the risks associated with co-sleeping include:

    • either the parent(s) or carer(s) are experiencing extreme tiredness to the point where they may find it difficult to respond to the baby
    • sleeping with the baby on any soft surface (for example, on a sofa, couch, waterbed, bean bag or sagging mattress)
    • excessive bedding on the bed (risk of smothering and/or over-heating)
    • the baby is less than 11 weeks of age, and/or
    • the baby is preterm or small for gestational age.
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    Sudden Unexplained Deaths in Infancy

    SUDI is an umbrella term that refers to a broad category of sudden infant deaths including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), fatal sleep accidents and other types of unexpected deaths such as congenital, infections and trauma. The following recommendations for sleeping a baby safely have all been shown to reduce the risk of the SUDI and should be provided to parents and carers to reduce risk:  

    • sleep baby on his or her back*
    • keep baby's head and face uncovered
    • keep baby smoke free before and after birth
    • provide a safe sleeping environment night and day
    • sleep baby in a safe cot in parent's room, or
    • breastfeed baby.**

    * Medical advice may be needed for babies with a severe disability.

    ** While breastfeedng is the ideal way to feed babies, we understand that it is not possible for all mothers.

    To increase knowledge and understanding of safe infant sleeping practices, child protection workers and Best Beginnings home visitors should:

    The E-Learning package takes less than an hour to complete and provides useful and current information and interactive learning tools.

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