Safe sleep and rest practices

Policies and procedures about children’s sleep and rest must be in place at all children's education and care services from October 2017.

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Why is the requirement in place?

An inquest into the death of Indianna Rose Hicks in 2012 found Indianna, who was five months old when she died suddenly and unexpectedly while in care, died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). A recommendation was made via the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement on proposed options for changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF), that Regulation 168 in the National Regulations, ‘Education and care service must have policies and procedures’ be amended to include a requirement for a policy on ‘Sleep and rest for children and infants’, including matters set out in Regulation 81 (Sleep and rest).

Principles to inform procedures

The following principles may inform sleep and rest policies and procedures at your service.

  • Effective sleep and rest strategies are important factors in ensuring a child feels secure and is safe at a service.
  • Approved providers, nominated supervisors and educators have a duty of care to ensure children are provided with a high level of safety when sleeping and resting and every reasonable precaution is taken to protect them from harm and hazard.
  • Approved providers are responsible for ensuring sleep and rest policies and procedures are in place.
  • Policies and procedures should be based on current research and recommended evidence-based principles and guidelines. Red Nose (formerly SIDS and Kids) is considered the recognised national authority on safe sleeping practices for infants and children.
  • Regularly review and update sleep and rest policies and procedures to ensure they are maintained in line with best practice principles and guidelines.
  • Nominated supervisors and educators should receive information and training to fulfil their roles effectively, including being made aware of the sleep and rest policies, their responsibilities in implementing these, and any changes that are made over time.
  • Services should consult with families about their child’s individual needs and be sensitive to different values and parenting beliefs, cultural or otherwise, associated with sleep and rest.

    If a family’s beliefs and requests are in conflict with current recommended evidence-based guidelines, the service will need to determine if there are exceptional circumstances that allow for alternate practices. For example, with some rare medical conditions, it may be necessary for a baby to sleep on his or her stomach or side, which is contrary to Red Nose recommendations. It is expected that in this scenario the service would only endorse the practice, with the written support of the baby’s medical practitioner. The service may also consider undertaking a risk assessment and implementing risk minimisation plans for the baby.

    In other circumstances, nominated supervisors and educators would not be expected to endorse practices requested by a family, if they differ with Red Nose recommendations. For example, a parent may request the service wrap or swaddle their baby while they are sleeping. However, according to Red Nose recommendations, this practice should be discontinued when a baby starts showing signs that they can begin to roll (usually around four to six months of age, but sometimes earlier). Nominated supervisors and educators should be confident to refer to the service’s Sleep and Rest Policies and Procedures if parents make requests that are contrary to the safety of the child. Child safety should always be the first priority.

  • Children have different sleep, rest and relaxation needs. Children of the same age can have different sleep patterns, which nominated supervisors and educators need to consider within the service. As per Standard 2.1 (element 2.1.2) of the National Quality Standard, each child’s comfort must be provided for and there must be appropriate opportunities to meet each child’s sleep, rest and relaxation needs.
  • Services providing overnight care may need to develop sleep and rest policies and procedures specific to this type of care (or incorporate overnight care into overarching policies and procedures), as overnight practices will differ to those used during the day. Policies and procedures should consider: the physical safety of the child’s sleeping environment; plans for the supervision of the child while they are sleeping, including how they will be monitored during the night; access of the child to other parts of the house during the night; access of other people to the child’s sleeping environment and night time emergency evacuation plans (e.g. in the case of a fire, intruder etc).

Current recommended evidence-based practices