Commissioner's Blog: Safe sleep for infants
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With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
In the wake of the tragic death of a three-month-old in WA last month (February 2017) after he was left momentarily unattended in a baby swing, it is timely to recall the practices, items and environments considered safe for infant sleeping.
The case here follows a similar episode in the UK in 2015 where a baby girl died in a bouncer after her mother fell asleep on the couch, as well as other incidences overseas where infants have died in baby swings, bouncers and even car seats.
While the design of the baby swing in the recent WA tragedy is not in question, the warning is not to leave infants unattended to sleep in anything other than a cot that meets the requirements of the Australian mandatory standard with a firm, snugly-fitting mattress.
Although infants may fall asleep for long periods in, for example, a car seat, they should always be monitored to ensure their sleeping position is safe.
When an infant falls asleep in a propped up device like a car seat, swing or bouncer, the head can fall forwards, pushing the chin down towards the chest. This can lead to the airway becoming blocked, reducing airflow and potentially causing suffocation.
We remind parents and caregivers of the following:
- do not leave children unsupervised (awake or asleep);
- do not leave children in a hot, unventilated vehicle;
- never leave children in a car seat with unbuckled or partially buckled straps;
- do not place car seats on unstable surfaces;
- straps on bouncers, strollers and swings may not prevent infants from manoeuvring into positions that could compromise their airway; and
- if using a baby sling, it’s important to learn how to use it safely to prevent suffocation – the infant’s face should be visible and kissable at all times.
Red Nose, the charity organisation that aims to eradicate sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), recommends babies sleep on their back on a firm and flat surface. The organisation considers a safe sleeping environment to mean that all potential dangers have been removed and the baby is sleeping in a safe position. The ideal place for a baby to sleep, whether day or night, is in a safety-compliant cot on a firm mattress with minimal bedding.
Sleeping hazards for infants include:
- being unattended on an adult bed or bunk bed;
- being placed on a waterbed, beanbag, couch, pillow or cushion;
- being left with a sleeping adult or child on a bed, couch or chair;
- toys and loose blankets within the cot; and
- second-hand smoke.
Also, it is imperative to keep baby’s cot away from hanging cords on blinds, curtains or electrical appliances as those cords could get caught around baby’s neck.
You can find more cot safety tips at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/second-hand-cot-safety.
To report a potential baby product safety issue email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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