Babies and infants in Canberra are continuing to die in preventable circumstances, including sleeping in situations where the risk of suffocation is high, the head of the ACT's child death committee has warned.
The ACT Children and Young People Death Review Committee has released its first fact sheet warning of the dangers of unsafe sleeping, including co-sleeping.
At least 14 babies under the age of one have died in unsafe sleeping practices in the past decade and a number of recent deaths are still under review by the coroner.
Committee chair Dr Penny Gregory said the death of any child was a tragedy, but it was especially tragic when a death could have been prevented.
"Our aim is to ensure the community understands the risks associated with unsafe sleeping practices," she said.
"Unsafe sleeping practices are ones which have a strong likelihood of leading to unintentional suffocation of the child."
Dr Gregory said the safest place for a child to sleep was in their own bed or cot or their own sleeping place in the same room as an adult for the first 6-12 months.
She said a person should never co-sleep with a baby if the bed was unsafe, such as a sofa bed or couch, they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, are exhausted or a smoker.
Co-sleeping should also be avoided if the baby was born prematurely or small, there are other children or adults in the bed or if the baby could slip under adult bedding such as a doona or pillow or between the bed and wall.
"We understand people do choose to sleep with the child in the bed and if they choose that, don't sleep with your child if you're in any way not going to be as alert as you might otherwise be. So if you're over tired or affected by alcohol or drugs, then there's an additional risk you won't be responsive to a child and could unintentionally suffocate it," Dr Gregory said.
"There are some tragic situations in which it appears that's what has happened."
The committee's warnings about unsafe sleeping practices come mid winter when parents might be concerned about keeping their children warm while sleeping.
Parents are advised room temperatures should be between 16C and 18C and if a room is cold, they should put more clothing on a baby or use an extra tuckable blanket. They are warned not to use other extra bedding such as doonas or hot water bottles and they should never sleep with a baby to provide warmth.
"Every death of a child is a terrible tragedy and our aim is to ensure that preventable deaths are prevented," Dr Gregory said.
"Co-sleeping is a risky practice and people need to be aware of that."
More information about safe sleeping practices can be found on the Sids and Kids' website.