Mattress firmness linked to risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy

On 28 June SIDS and Kids is holding its 26th annual Red Nose Day fundraising event, helping to raise money for crucial research into stillbirth and Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy.

Each year more than 3,500 families still experience the unexpected death of a baby or child from a range of causes including fatal sleeping accidents, drowning, motor vehicle accidents, sudden onset illness, stillbirth and SIDS.

SIDS and fatal sleeping accidents remain the most common categories of sudden and unexpected deaths of infants between one month and one year of age. Parents can take some simple measures to ensure they are following Safe Sleeping practices.

Sleeping baby on the tummy or side is one of the known related risk factors for SIDS, however sleeping babies on overly soft surfaces can also increase the risk of fatal sleeping accidents when baby rolls over. Sleeping baby on an overly soft surface can cause airway obstruction, rebreathing of expired air, or thermal stress.

SIDS and Kids is reminding parents and caregivers they should always ensure their baby is slept in a safe sleeping environment night and day. Sleep baby in a safe cot, on safe mattress and with safe bedding.

Leanne Raven, CEO of SIDS and Kids explains that one of the causes of fatal sleeping accidents is accidental suffocation: “If soft and puffy bedding is present in the cot or the mattress is not firm, the baby’s face may become covered and this may obstruct their breathing ”, says Ms Raven, “To prevent this, parents should ensure the mattress is firm, well fitting, clean and flat”.

In April this year, Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand introduced a new, world first, voluntary standard for all infant sleep surfaces to improve product safety and reduce the likelihood of death or injury to babies.

The ‘Methods of testing infant products – Sleep surfaces: Test for firmness’ standard applies to mattresses, prams, bassinets, and any commercially produced infant products that a baby will naturally sleep in.

Dr Ron Somers, of the University of Adelaide, was one of the leading developers of the new standard and is hoping that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will adopt it as a regulated requirement for Australian suppliers.

“A baby sleeping on a surface that is too soft has more than 5 times the chance of dying from sudden infant death than one sleeping on a surface tested to this new Australian standard”, says Dr Somers.

“There is often an assumption that the firmness of baby products is regulated but, alarmingly, it isn’t”, Dr Somers continues, “This is an oversight and an area of infant safety that has been neglected. The United States has also recognised this and is following our lead in adopting this new standard”.

For parents that are using existing mattresses and equipment, Dr Somers has developed an informal test that can be conducted by parents at home, using common household objects such as two cartons of milk or juice and a stack of DVDs to measure the firmness of a sleeping surface.

SIDS and Kids recommends parent’s follow the ‘Sleep Safe, My Baby‘ guidelines to reduce the risk of sudden infant death and to create a safe sleeping environment.

Six ways to sleep baby safely and reduce the risk of sudden and unexpected death in infancy:

  1. Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side
  2. Sleep baby with head and face uncovered
  3. Keep baby smoke free before birth and after
  4. Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day
  5. Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult care-giver for the first six to twelve months
  6. Breastfeed baby

SIDS and Kids is an Australian community-based organisation dedicated to saving the lives of babies and children during pregnancy, birth, infancy and childhood and to supporting bereaved families.

Red Nose Day is one of Australia’s iconic campaigns taking place this year on 28 June. Please visit for further information.

For instructions on how to do a home test of the firmness of a sleeping surface, please visit the-Safe-Firmness-of-an-Infant-Mattress-to-Prevent-Asphyxiation.

For further information please contact:

Cassandra Bradshaw Spark Communications
0402 346 197 or 03 9693 8128

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