Sleeping with a baby – what parents should know
The Victorian coroner recently made recommendations based on his findings following investigation of the cases of four Victorian babies who died in 2009 and 2010 who shared a sleep surface with another person usually an adult care giver.
The Coroners Prevention Unit examined a total of 72 infant deaths occurring in a sleeping context over a three year period. It found that 33 of these deaths occurred whilst the infant was sharing a sleep surface with another person.
A statistically significant association was identified for infants less than four months and the presence of a pillow with deaths occurring in a co-sleeping context.
The coroner recommended on current evidence that the safest place for an infant to sleep is on their back on a separate sleep surface in a safe cot in the same room as a caregiver for the first six to 12 months of life.
The coroner further recommended that consistent and evidence-based messages be given to parents about safe sleep practices for infants by health professionals, and that policy be in alignment with the SIDS and Kids information statement ‘Sleeping with a baby’. This information statement can be downloaded here.
Sharing a sleep surface with a baby increases the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), including SIDS and fatal sleeping accidents in some circumstances.
SIDS and Kids recommends sleeping a baby in a cot next to the parents’ bed for the first 6-12 months of life as this has been shown to lower the risk of SIDS. Experts agree that is important for parents to be in close sensory contact with their baby and they also agree that a cot or bassinet next to the parents’ bed achieves this closeness.
Many parents bring baby into bed to feed, cuddle and settle their baby. In cultures across the world, including Australia, many parents choose to share a bed with their baby. These parents need to consider the risks of sharing a sleep surface.
Sharing a sleep surface with a baby must be avoided in the following circumstances:
- baby shares the sleep surface with a smoker
- care-giver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs that cause sedation
- baby is premature, small when born, or less than 3 months of age
- care-giver is overly tired
- there is adult bedding, doonas or pillows that may cover the infant
- baby could be trapped between the wall and bed, fall out of bed or could be rolled on
- baby is sharing bed with other children or pets
- baby is placed to sleep on a sofa, beanbag, waterbed or sagging mattress
If parents choose to co-sleep then they need to be able to make an informed choice. Visit our website here for further information.
Some sleeping arrangements for babies can be very dangerous and increase the risk of SUDI. The SIDS and Kids Safe Sleeping message informs parents and health professionals about how to reduce these risks and create a safe sleeping environment for babies. Since the introduction of the Safe Sleeping education program in the early 90s, the number of sudden infant deaths in Australia has decreased by 80 per cent.
SIDS and Kids recommends six ways to sleep baby safely and to reduce the risk of SUDI:
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 if you can
SIDS and Kids recommends that after feeding and cuddles, baby is placed into their own separate and safe sleeping place, next to their parents’ bed. For more information about Safe Sleeping visit the SIDS and Kids website on www.sidsandkids.org.
For all inquiries, please contact:
SIDS and Kids (P) 03 9819 4595, (E) firstname.lastname@example.org