Unsafe Sleeping Fact Sheet - Children and Young People Death

The ACT Children and Young People Death Review Committee was formed to help reduce
preventable deaths of children and young people in the ACT by reviewing all deaths of children
and young people that occur in the ACT, as well as those deaths of ACT children and young people
that occur outside of the ACT.
The Committee has identified that since July 2004 more than 14 children have died in unsafe
sleeping situations, particularly co-sleeping, with a number of further recent deaths still under
review by the Coroner. All of these children were infants less than one year of age. The Committee
is concerned that without a change in current sleeping practices more babies will undoubtedly die
preventable and tragic deaths from unintentional suffocation.
The community organisation ‘Sids and Kids’ states that the safest place for all babies to sleep is in
their own safe sleeping spaces, in the same room as their parent or caregiver, for the first six to
twelve months of their life. The ‘Sids and Kids’ safe sleeping website at www.sidsandkids.org/safesleeping/ provides information to help you make sure your baby sleeps safely.
How can my baby sleep safely?
On a separate sleep surface in a safe cot that meets recommended Australian safety
standards. The cot can be placed directly next to the adult bed, with the side down if
necessary, to enable immediate contact with the baby, but making it impossible for the
sleeping parent to roll onto the infant, or for the infant to roll onto the parent’s bed.
Put the baby’s feet at the foot of the cot, not in the middle of the cot.
Babies should always be put to sleep on their backs.
The cot bedding should be a sheet with light weight blankets that can be tucked in at the
sides. There should be no cot bumpers, pillows, sheep skins or soft toys – they are just not
The room should be well ventilated – no cigarette or marijuana smoke in the house.
The room temperature should be between 16 and 18 degrees. If the room is cold, put more
clothing on the baby and perhaps an extra tuckable blanket, but do not use any other extra
bedding such as doonas or hot water bags and never sleep with your baby to provide
Should you choose to co-sleep with your infant, there are some very important steps you can take
to help reduce the risk.
Do not sleep in the same bed as your baby if:
you, or you partner have drunk any alcohol
you, or your partner have taken any prescription or recreational drugs, including marijuana
you, or your partner are very tired or exhausted
you or your partner are smokers
you are sleeping on a sofa bed, couch or waterbed
your baby was born prematurely or particularly small (under 3000 grams)
there are other children or adults in the bed, or
your baby could slip under adult bedding such as a doona or pillow – in the many places in
the world where babies sleep with their parents, the bed is usually the floor, or a similar
hard surface with light weight rugs and either no or firm, small pillows; there are no
doonas or soft pillows.
Cot safety in the home
Australia has a law that states that all cots must comply with the Australian standard - AS/NZS
2172-2010. These standards are designed to prevent falls, entrapment and strangulation. The
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s product safety website at
www.productsafety.gov.au states that to ensure cot safety in your home, make sure your cot:
• is assembled according to its instructions
• has locking mechanisms that work and operate safely with repeated use (on moving drop
side cots)
• is fitted with only the mattress designed specifically for it – ill fitting mattresses can create
dangerous gaps that can trap a sleeping child and cause suffocation
• never has an extra mattress in it – while the mattress in the cot might look thin and
uncomfortable to you, it has been designed for the safety and comfort of your baby
• is set up so the cot is out of reach of blinds and curtain cords and kept away from heaters
and other electrical appliances
• is always taken back to the supplier to organise repairs that will ensure safety should parts
of your cot break – never modify a cot yourself.