Breathing is a complicated physiological process that occurs differently in infants. The area in our brain that controls breathing is not fully developed in infants, who are at higher risk of suffocation, particularly during sleep. The phenomenon of infants dying in their sleep inexplicably, documented for thousands of years, has become known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Safe Sleep for Babies
Safe infant sleep campaigns are a public health success story. Australia’s safe sleep campaign began in 1977, has been refined as new evidence comes to light, and continues today. The reduction of SIDS rates in Australia since the 1980s is predominantly due to our safe sleep campaigns informing parents of risk reduction measures they can take to protect their babies.
This pictorial shows the public health messages used for all parents of newborns in Australia today to encourage safe infant sleep practices which evidence clearly demonstrates, reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). I have highlighted the explanation of why babies’ head and face should be left uncovered.
Keep baby’s head and face uncovered: Covering your baby’s head or face during sleep may cause them to overheat or suffocate. Red Nose recommends safely wrapping or swaddling newborns as this is a very useful way to soothe and settle your baby in preparation for sleep. Once your baby shows signs that they are attempting to roll, dressing them in a safe sleeping bag with a fitted neck and armholes and no hood provides a safe and comfortable alternative. Always place your baby with their feet at the bottom of the cot with a sheet and/or light blanket tucked in firmly at the sides of the cot. This will stop them from wriggling under covers and accidentally covering their face.
Below is a very sad example of how vulnerable public health is and why those of us with public health training have an ethical obligation to oppose politically motivated disinformation.