Sleep. It’s pretty amazing. But once a baby comes along, sleep can be little more than a distant memory – always top of mind, but often just out of reach. Whether it’s thinking about your next powernap, worrying about your bub’s sleep patterns, or daydreaming about sleep ins (!).
That’s why Aussie mums and dads turn to Red Nose for a guiding hand through the first years of their child’s life. We sat down with one of their experts, Jane Wiggill Chief Midwife at Red Nose Australia, to learn more about her role, the importance of safe sleep, and the nerves parents face.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your role at Red Nose?
As Chief Midwife at Red Nose, my role is large and varied, contributing to every department within the organisation. I am responsible for all of the clinical knowledge within Red Nose and making sure that our education programs of safe sleeping advice are evidence-based and delivered to a high quality.
I also have the wonderful opportunity to present at conferences to healthcare professionals and teach parents about life saving safe sleeping practices.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your role?
Knowing that we change lives. I particularly love providing advice to parents directly at baby expos because it is a wonderful opportunity to present to large groups of new and expectant parents and empower them with the skills to help keep their babies safe.
I love seeing the look of relief on their faces after we talk, and it is always such a beautiful surprise to be visited by returning parents who want to bring their brand-new babies to the hub to say hello. It’s very special.
Pictured: Jane Wiggill, Chief Midwife at Red Nose Australia.
Q: What’s the most challenging part of your role?
I am always deeply saddened to hear that despite our best efforts to get our life saving, safe sleeping messages out there, tragedy still happens – we know that about 100 babies still die every year from SIDS and sleeping accidents. Even one death is too many, and we need to keep working to keep all babies safe.
As a midwife, I have felt the weight of this loss (quite literally in my hands) in the rooms with the parents and it is all-consuming. You feel powerless in these situations despite your determination to do everything you can to help.
Meeting the families who have suffered the greatest form of loss, or hearing stories in the community inspires both myself and the whole Red Nose team to continue to work hard to support and educate parents.
Q: Safe sleep is a huge part of the work Red Nose do; can you tell us a bit about why it is so important?
Through 40 years of research, Red Nose has developed six safe sleep recommendations which continue to save little lives. To date, we have reduced SIDS in Australia by 85% - that’s over 10,000 babies saved since the 1980s. This is an amazing achievement, but we cannot afford to stop our important work.
The safe sleep recommendations are continuously reviewed to ensure they remain in line with the global scientific evidence to help keep babies safe.
Our proven evidenced-based safe sleep recommendations are:
1) Sleep baby on their back
2) Keep face and head uncovered
3) Keep baby smoke free, before and after birth
4) Safe sleep environment, night and day
5) Sleep baby in safe cot in parents’ room
6) Breastfeed baby
Q: What are most important things to consider when creating a safe sleep environment?
A safe sleeping environment means that all potential dangers have been removed from the sleeping space and that baby is sleeping on its back, in a safe place for both day and night sleeps.
Soft surfaces and bedding, including bulky or loose blankets, head coverings, toys and cot bumpers are unsafe and can increase the risk of sudden infant death as they can easily cover baby’s face and obstruct their breathing, or cause baby to overheat.
The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a safe cot on a safe mattress, with safe bedding.
A safe sleeping environment is one where your baby is sleeping in a safe cot that meets Australian standards, on a firm, flat surface. If a blanket is being used, ensure your baby is placed with their feet at the end of the cot, with the blanket tucked securely underneath the mattress, so it can’t ride up and cover baby’s face or head.
Always keep the cot away from hanging cords such as mobiles, blinds, curtains or electrical appliances as they could get caught around a baby’s neck. Always ensure heaters or any electrical appliances are well away from the cot to avoid the risk of overheating, burns and electrocution. Never use electric blankets, hot water bottles or wheat bags for babies.
Bonds new Wondercool range is another piece of the puzzle. The only baby clothing approved by Red Nose for safer sleep, the innovative new range of Zip Wondersuits, bodysuits and sleeping bags help to keep bub cool, comfy and cosy.
Q: Pregnancy can be a nerve-wracking time; can you give us some tips on how to get through it without losing our heads?
Having a baby is a very exciting time but it can definitely be an overwhelming one too. There is so much conflicting advice for parents through the internet, social media and television that it can be difficult to know how to make safe choices.
I always remind parents that new babies are simple little beings that only require simple things in order to keep them healthy and happy. If they remember this, parents are less likely to fall into the trap of making unnecessary purchases that are often very expensive and in many cases are not safe for baby.
Q: What do you think is the most wonderful part of becoming a parent?
That in an instant, your world changes forever. It is filled with joy, coloured by the wonder and curiosity of something so small yet so able to fill your entire heart.
Q: If there was one piece of advice you could give to new parents, what would it be?
Try to cut out the noise of everyone’s well-intended “advice” All your baby needs is love. Show it unconditionally even if sometimes, the days and nights blend into one in the thick fog of sleep deprivation.
There are no rules, only facts. Red Nose provides all the help you need with information that is evidenced based and reliable. Head to rednose.org.au for support along your journey.
The entire Wondercool range is available here.