For the first time it is possible for consumers to identify cot mattresses, bassinets, and other newborn sleep surfaces with a high risk of accidental suffocation

The Australian/New Zealand  national standard for minimum safe firmness of infant mattresses (document number AS/NZS 8811.1:2013) was first published in April 2013 and leads the world with a new infant safety innovation. It is all about preventing accidental suffocation among infants aged 0-12 months, who may roll face down on an overly soft sleep surface. The standard is a technical document intended for product manufacturers and importers.  The standard describes a formal test that can be conducted on any infant sleep surface, using a simple portable apparatus.  Without this apparatus (a sort of weighted dinner plate), you can’t conduct the formal test.

However, there is an alternative test that you can conduct, using only some full, 1 litre milk cartons and computer disks:

If you want the full story, complete with information on the formal test, check out this five-minute video instead:

You can also find written instructions for the alternative test method here:

Remember to test your mattresses in the cot, and to test the softest parts of each mattress. This is called ‘worst-case’ testing. If the sleep surface has peaks or other raised sections, try to produce a ‘fail’ by positioning the milk cartons close to the peak.  Infants can move around and place their noses near a peak (and remember, infants can breathe only through their nose – not through their mouth).

So where did we get the idea that overly soft sleep surfaces can cause infant suffocation? Four international studies (the earliest one from Tasmania) have shown a connection between softness and death. Of course this connection should be obvious, but we needed a bit of science to prove the point.

Now it’s your turn to make use of this important new information.  What could be more devastating than the suffocation death of a healthy infant?

Dr. Ron Somers is on the  Standards Australia Technical Committee CS-003 Safety of children’s furniture which developed the Standard.

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