Safe sleep and settling survey reveals big gaps in educator knowledge on ECEC sleep
In a survey conducted by Ternity Group to gain an insight and an understanding of safe sleep and settling practices within the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, revealing some concerning knowledge gaps, particularly when it came to supporting infants and younger babies to settle safely to sleep.
As well as the safety implications of these gaps, the lack of knowledge in this space poses compliance risks, with s168(2) of the Education and Care Services National Regulations requiring policies and procedures around sleep and rest to be in place, and actively used and understood, by those working in ECEC settings. The bulk of the survey respondents (over 70 per cent) worked in long day care settings.
Clinical Director Cindy Davenport said that whilst it was great to see that 88 per cent of educators knew that a baby should always be placed to sleep on their back, alarmingly 12 per cent said they would not place a baby to sleep on their back, or would only choose to do this sometimes.
Educators were also confused in their practice when it came to swaddling infants, particularly around when to cease swaddling, and what to do when the infant started rolling.
Swaddling once an infant has begun rolling is unsafe, Ms Davenport said, however many educators reported that they were unsure about how to settle a previously swaddled baby once they began rolling, leaving her concerned that babies are exposed to risk in the longer term as educators lacked confidence or resources about how to support them to make this transition.
Perhaps most concerningly, 20 per cent of educators surveyed had not read their service’s sleep and rest policy within the last year, and the majority of the educators surveyed said they felt unsure about correct and safe settling techniques for infants and young children.
85 per cent of educators used patting to settle children, 50 per cent rock children in their arms, 41 per cent rock a cot, and 33 per cent will hold children until they are asleep.
The findings of the study are consistent with previous research into safe sleep and settling in ECEC settings, which found that “despite 25 years of public health messaging, non compliance with safe sleeping guidelines was observed to be high in childcare services.”
“When we asked educators what their main challenges when working with infants and young children were, they overwhelmingly responded with sleep issues, and responding to parents’ concerns about sleep and settling,” Ms Davenport said.
“More than three quarters of the educators we spoke to said that they needed more support around settling techniques, not only for their own work, but to support parents too,” she continued.
“It’s not that educators don’t want to ‘do the right thing’ when it comes to helping children to sleep and settle safely,” she continued, “it’s that they lack the knowledge and skills about how to achieve that, especially settling strategies to decrease the risk of unsafe sleep in their service.”
To review the full survey results, please see here.