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Queensland Government media release

Hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander newborns will be tucked safely into bed with funding for more safe co-sleeping spaces. 

Mothers in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities will be provided with a Pēpi-Pod for their babies to sleep safely in, as well as access to a safe sleeping education program in a bid to cut infant deaths.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Queensland Government would provide $100,000 to continue the roll-out of a safe sleeping program in Indigenous communities, including 600 Pēpi-Pods for young mothers aged 15-25 years.

“Safe sleeping arrangements are absolutely vital and provide a starting point to keep babies and young children safe at home,” she said.

“Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) is one of the leading causes of death amongst infants and in some cases may be preventable with the right education and support.

“Pēpi-Pods have made a real difference in helping reduce infant mortality in New Zealand by up to 30 per cent over the last four years, so I’m pleased that hundreds of young Indigenous mothers right here in Queensland will be able to use them, in conjunction with education and health support.”

Minister for Child Safety Shannon Fentiman said The Queensland Family and Child Commission 2015-16 report into Queensland child deaths found half of infants who died from sudden unexpected death were sleeping with one or more people at the time of death.

“We know co-sleeping can increase the risk of sudden unexpected death and fatal sleep accidents, especially for babies less than 12 weeks of age,” she said.

“The rates of sudden unexpected death are around four times higher among Indigenous infants than non-Indigenous infants,” she said.

“We know that co-sleeping can be a risk factor associated with sudden unexpected deaths in some circumstances, which is why we’re focusing this trial on the delivery of education and support for high-risk young women.”

Pēpi-Pod’s are a safe sleep enabler, which provides physical protection around a baby when they are asleep in places where the risk of suffocation is heightened, for example, on adult beds, couches or in makeshift beds.

The Pēpi-Pod Program is made up of a portable sleeping space designed for babies up to five months, which includes appropriate bedding, and is embedded in safe sleep education and a family commitment to spreading safe sleep messages within their own social network.

The program was first introduced in Queensland as a research trial led by Professor Jeanine Young from the University of the Sunshine Coast in collaboration with New Zealand’s Change of our Children social innovation organisation and Queensland Health in 2012.

Professor Young said babies thrive when they are kept close to their mothers.

“We have had strong support from health services participating in the study,” she said.

“This program is all about valuing and maintaining the cultural values of keeping babies close, but also ensuring baby has a safe place to sleep, particularly when there are other risk factors present.

“Safe sleeping advice needs to be evidence-based but also transferable in a way that is practical, acceptable and valuable for families caring for their babies.

“The Pēpi-Pod Program helps families move safe sleep advice to safe sleep action.”

Ms Fentiman said an education and awareness program, including antenatal workshops, will be rolled out in conjunction with the Pēpi-Pod Program through local community-controlled health networks.

“The Queensland Government and Family Matters are also working together to develop an action plan that lays the platform for our efforts to improve the lives of Indigenous people and ensure that their children are safe, healthy and have the same opportunities as other Queensland children,” she said.

The safe sleeping program is a partnership between the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, Queensland Health, University of the Sunshine Coast, the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, Rural Doctors Association for Queensland Foundation and Red Nose. 

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