Australia has made great progress in reducing infant mortality rates – but nine children still die unexpectedly every day.
A significant number of these deaths happen during sleep – often by suffocation – so the Red Nose charity seeks to help teach parents about better night-time behaviours.
Held annually since 1988, its Red Nose Day campaign has helped save the lives of more than 10,000 babies and children, according to the latest 2018 Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates – reducing deaths by 85 percent.
One of its key messages is advising parents to put babies to sleep on their backs, not tummy or sides.
“Even 30 years on, Red Nose Day is still so important,” said Cairns Private Hospital paediatrician Dr Tim Warnock, who will be joining his colleagues in wearing red noses to raise awareness on Friday 14 August 2020.
“The ‘Back to Sleep’ message is crucial for all parents because when the numbers go down everybody thinks there isn’t an issue, but children are still dying from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) every day,” he added.
SIDS cases, usually unexplained after investigations, are part of the larger sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) group, which also includes fatal sleeping accidents.
Dr Warnock said many deaths occurred when parents co-sleep with their babies in a desperate attempt to get more rest.
“The message is clear, don’t do it. Don’t resort to it because unfortunately it becomes the quick fix and in many cases the quick fix will be safe and without complications, but there will be those that end in disaster,” he said.
Stillbirth was also a major cause among the 3,000-plus unexpected deaths of Australian babies and children in 2018.
Red Nose includes lifestyle and health advice for parents among its educational resources – it recommends not smoking before or after baby’s birth, while it says breastfeeding has also been shown to reduce the risk of SUDI.
“This is an opportunity to continue to educate parents on safe sleeping habits for their children,” Dr Warnock said.
“Cairns Private Hospital is proud to support Red Nose Day because we need to make sure the safe sleeping message gets out there.”
The North Queensland hospital has already raised more than $900 for the cause thanks to a raffle organised by its Women’s Health/Maternity Unit, with prizes donated by local businesses.