Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Nursing Honours


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Anne Read

Second Advisor

Gillian Richardson


Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDS) is a major cause of death in the first year of life. In Western Australia (WA), two infants in every thousand live births die from SIDS each year. The aim of this study was to ascertain the prevalence in WA of three risk factors which have been associated with SIDS, namely prone lying, maternal smoking and lack of breast feeding. In addition the study sought to determine the significant influences that encourage change in infant care practices by parents. The study obtained information from child health nurses and midwives regarding the advice they provide on these three risk factors, and the extent to which hospitals have developed policies or guidelines on these risk factors. The information was obtained using mailed questionnaires to five distinct groups (i) 242 mothers who had recently given birth for the first time, (ii) 448 mothers who had recently given birth for at least the second time, (iii) 80 child health nurses (iv) 80 registered midwives plus 13 registered midwives in independent practise, and (v) all 85 hospitals in WA which accepted maternity or infant patients. This study has found that 89% of infants in WA sleep in a non-prone position, and that mothers with previous children have made a significant change from prone to non-prone sleeping with their most recent child. The rates of commencement of breast feeding (93%) and breast feeding at three months (63%) are comparable to findings elsewhere in Australia. However, there is a significant reduction in the number of mothers who breast fed their recently born infants compared to their previous children. There was an overall small decrease in maternal smoking between the antenatal and the postnatal periods. Mothers with previous children smoked significantly less after the birth of their recently born infant than after the birth of their previous child. The media, midwives, and books, pamphlets and parenthood classes were important influences for mothers with respect to infant sleeping position. Child health nurses and midwives had changed their advice on sleeping position, with almost all promoting a non-prone infant sleep position. The majority of hospitals have instituted policies and guidelines advocating non-prone infant sleeping. The 'Reducing the Risks' campaign initiated by the SIDS Foundation in 1991 appears to have had an important and significant role in effecting this change in sleeping position. The results of this study have provided important baseline data about the prevalence of the major postnatal risk factors associated with SIDS, and also include information about the advice given by health care professionals and hospitals. This information has the potential to assist health care personnel and agencies when developing future health promotion strategies in the area of maternal and child health in WA.

Included in

Pediatrics Commons