Warning for parents after co-sleeping tragedy

A THIRD of unexplained infant deaths in Queensland happened while children were co-sleeping with parents and 75 per cent sleep with their babies.

The figures come as a six-week-old girl died and her twin was left in critical condition in a co-sleeping tragedy.

Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) data shows that there were 18 infant deaths with no known cause in 2016-17 (latest figures available), of which six occurred while the baby was co-sleeping.

The Courier-Mail can reveal that a study to be released next month shows 75 per cent of Queensland parents report co-sleeping with their children in the first three months after birth.

The Queensland Infant Care Practice Study found 57 per cent of parents co-slept unintentionally, while 47 per cent did it routinely.

Red Nose chief midwife Jane Wiggill said the peak charity for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was saddened by Wednesday's tragic death of a Brisbane infant.

She also warned of the dangers of the co-sleeping.

"Co-sleeping or sharing a sleep surface with an infant is a common practice for many families," she said.

"However, it can increase the risk of death and injury, in some circumstances.

 

"Our thoughts are with the family at this very difficult time and we offer our free support services to anyone impacted by this tragedy, including first responders and the wider community."

Kids Safe CEO Susan Teerds, urged parents to follow safe sleeping tips for their newborns. Picture: Liam Kidston
Kids Safe CEO Susan Teerds, urged parents to follow safe sleeping tips for their newborns. Picture: Liam Kidston

Queensland Kidsafe chief executive Susan Teerds said a child's death was "terrible". "We know it happens, new motherhood is exhausting and with all best intentions, people fall asleep," she said.

"The best practice is that the baby is sleeping on its back, in a safe separate sleeping environment."

Ms Teerds said there were a lot of factors to take into consideration, but some reasons for shared sleeping were cultural or socio-economic.

"I don't know the circumstances … but no parent does this deliberately.

"It's a timely warning for people that we have safe sleeping guidelines for a very good reason."

Red Nose chief executive and counselling expert Keren Ludski said it was "every parent's worst nightmare" and urged Queenslanders to support the parents.

"From the moment most parents find out they're pregnant, their protective instinct kicks in an they'll do anything they can to keep their babies safe," she said.

"To have a baby die under this circumstance would be triggering every aspect of guilt and feeling of failing their child."

She said this is not something parents simply "get over", but over time they can learn to live with it, so "it's not as unbelievably painful".

"Just be so incredibly conscious of what that couple must be going through and the support they need."

 

 

HOW TO REDUCE RISKS OF FATAL SLEEPING ACCIDENT

 

 

TIPS FOR SAFER CO-SLEEPING

■ Place baby on their back, never their tummy or side.

Make sure the mattress is clean and firm.

Keep pillows and adult bedding away from baby.

Make sure baby can't fall off the bed. You can also put the mattress on the floor to reduce the risk of baby being hurt from falling off.

Make sure the bedding and sheets can't cover baby's face.

Place baby to the side of one adult, never in the middle of two adults, or next to other kids or pets.

Move bed away from the wall so baby can't fall between it and the wall.

Dress baby in a safe sleep suit - one with no hood, a fitted neck and with baby's arms out of the holes. Don't wrap or swaddle baby.

Tie up long hair, remove all jewellery and remove teething necklaces.

 

AVOID CO-SLEEPING OR LYING DOWN HOLDING BABY IF:

You are tired or unwell;

You or your partner have recently drunk alcohol;

You or your partner smoke, even if they don't smoke in the bedroom;

Baby is unwell, was premature or is small for their gestational age;

You or your partner have taken drugs (illicit or prescription medication) that make you less aware.

Falling asleep holding baby on a couch or chair is always unsafe.

 

SAFE SLEEPING FOR TWINS

Sleeping twins in a cot (known as "co-bedding") is dangerous if one part of the body of one twin were able to accidentally cover the face of the other, causing an interference with breathing. There is a risk that this can happen if the infants are sleeping side-by-side.

 

TIPS FOR SAFER CO-BEDDING

Place babies head to head, at opposite ends of the cot.

Do not use bedding. Safer alternatives to bedding include wrapping/swaddling the babies separately until they show signs of being able to roll over, or their own safe sleep suits.

Babies must be slept separately when they show signs of being able to move around in the cot.

Source: Red Nose

 

Red Nose Safe Sleep Advice Line 1300 996 698 (business hours)

Red Nose Grief and Loss Support Line 1300 308 307 (24/7)


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