The Department of Communities (the Department) provides information and guidance on safe sleeping practices and the risks associated with co-sleeping to families and carers with infants.
Co-sleeping is where a parent (or any other person) is asleep on the same sleep surface as an infant. Sleeping on the same surface as an infant up to 12 months of age places them at risk, with infants less than four months of age at most risk.
We work with many families where the risks associated with co-sleeping practices may be increased through substance abuse, smoking and taking medication.
When making assessments, you (child protection workers and Best Beginnings home visitors) must consider the sleeping arrangements of families with babies, both at the families' primary residences and other locations such as the homes of friends or relatives.
When working with a family with an infant, you must advise them about co-sleeping and factors that increase or reduce this risk in the first four weeks of the baby's birth, and, where appropriate, provide information and the following resources:
Women and Newborn Health Service of WA: Safe Infant Sleeping Information for Parents, Carers and Families brochure
SIDS and Kids WA: Reducing the Risk of SUDI in Aboriginal Communities
Safe sleeping – other languages and
Quitnow webpage: Pregnancy and Quitting for information on:
the impact of smoking during pregnancy
the effects of second-hand smoke on infants, and
smoking and SIDS.
You may also provide additional information and resources from the SIDS and Kids WA - Safer Sleep website.
You must advise all parents or carers with infants that co-sleeping increases the risk to infants, particularly where parents use medication, smoke and have substance use issues, and these issues also increase the risk of Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (SUDI) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
There is evidence that co-sleeping is associated with a greater incidence of SUDI. The risks associated with co-sleeping are increased when:
Other factors that increase the risks associated with co-sleeping include:
Sudden Unexplained Deaths in Infancy is an umbrella term that refers to a broad category of sudden infant deaths including SIDS, fatal sleep accidents and other types of unexpected deaths such as congenital, infections and trauma. The following recommendations for sleeping a baby safely have all been shown to reduce the risk of the SUDI and should be provided to parents and carers:
Sleep baby on his or her back (medical advice may be needed for babies with a severe disability).
Keep baby's head and face uncovered.
Keep baby smoke free before and after birth.
Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day.
Sleep baby in a safe cot in parent's room.
Breastfeed baby (while breastfeeding is the ideal way to feed babies, we understand that it is not possible for all mothers).
To increase knowledge and understanding of safe infant sleeping practices, you should:
refer to the related resource material, and to the Rednose WA - Safer Sleep, and
complete the Rednose WA Safe Sleeping E-Learning Package to learn more about safe sleeping practices.
The E-Learning package takes less than an hour to complete and provides useful and current information and interactive learning tools.