Child care centres across Australia will be required to put babies to sleep on their backs, in a bid to reduce cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Under new regulations, staff will be able to enforce Red Nose safe sleep practices and guidelines against a parent’s wishes, unless a medical reason is provided.
The new requirements follow an inquest into the death of five-month-old Indianna Rose Hicks, who died from SIDS in 2012, while in family daycare in Queensland.
Consistent sleep guidelines
Under the new national sleep guidelines, child care staff will be able to overrule parents to ensure safe sleep practices are used. This includes if a parent requests their baby be swaddled or wrapped if they are showing signs that they can roll.
“This change will ensure consistency in child care centres across the country so that every child will be slept according to Red Nose’s safe sleeping guidelines, which have reduced the rate of sudden unexpected death in infancy in Australia by 80 per cent and saved 9,450 lives,” explained Red Nose’s Yvonne Amos.
Until now, child care centres have had health and safety procedures in place, but these didn’t specifically address sleep. The new practices apply to long day care, family day care, preschool/kindergarten and outside school hours care services nation-wide from Sunday – except in Western Australia where they will come into effect next year.
The guidelines will be enforced by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority, which says child safety should always be the first priority of child care providers.
Safe sleep practices
Lobby group The Parenthood has welcomed the new guidelines, saying, “When you entrust your children to early childhood educators every day, it’s really comforting to know that your child is being cared for in accordance with the most up-to-date recommendations from Red Nose. While changes to sleep position might be a little challenging, no one wants to lose a child to SIDS.”
The new safe practices for child care providers include:
- Babies should be placed on their back to sleep when first being settled. Once a baby has been observed to repeatedly roll from back to front and back again on their own, they can be left to find their own preferred sleep or rest position (this is usually around five to six months of age).
- Babies aged younger than five to six months, and who have not been observed to repeatedly roll from back to front and back again on their own, should be re-positioned onto their back when they roll onto their front or side.
- If a medical condition exists that prevents a baby from being placed on their back, the alternative practice should be confirmed in writing with the service, by the child’s medical practitioner.
- If a baby is wrapped when sleeping, consider the baby’s stage of development. Leave their arms free once the startle reflex disappears at around three months of age, and discontinue the use of a wrap when the baby can roll from back to tummy to back again (usually four to six months of age).
- If being used, a dummy should be offered for all sleep periods. Dummy use should be phased out by the end of the first year of a baby’s life. If a dummy falls out of a baby’s mouth during sleep, it should not be re-inserted.
More information about the new guidelines are available through the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority and Red Nose.