Lack of consistency in safe-sleeping messages to parents

Roger W Byard, Glenda Cains, Helen Noblet and Maxine Weber
Med J Aust 2007; 187 (1): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2007.tb01134.x
Published online: 2 July 2007

To the Editor: V-shaped pillows (“tri-pillows”) may cause suffocation of an infant left to sleep between the two arms of the pillow when he or she slips into the crevice between the arms, or beneath the pillow. The deaths of two infants who died in this manner were reported in South Australia in 1997, and a third death was the subject of a coronial inquiry.1,2 In 1998, the SA State Coroner recommended that “a public warning be issued against the use of tri- or U-shaped pillows by infants under two years of age for sleeping”.2 This message has also been issued in subsequent safe-sleeping campaigns, with a statement in the SIDS and Kids national “Safe sleeping” brochure that “tri-pillows are too soft and can cover baby’s face”, and a statement on the SA Child and Youth Health website that “. . . babies should not be left in these pillows while they are sleeping”.4 Despite these clear messages, deaths continue to occur in SA,5 and V-shaped pillows are still being sold in the foyer of a local obstetric hospital. Although the pillows are being promoted to assist breastfeeding, infants who have been left to sleep on them will be exposed to the risk of suffocation.

  • 1 Discipline of Pathology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA.
  • 2 Forensic Science SA, Adelaide, SA.
  • 3 Kidsafe SA, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide, SA.
  • 4 SIDS and Kids, Adelaide, SA.


  • 1. Byard RW, Beal SM. V-shaped pillows and unsafe infant sleeping. J Paediatr Child Health 1997; 33: 171-173.
  • 2. Chivell W, State Coroner, South Australia. Finding of inquest No. 25/98. Coroner’s Court, Adelaide, SA, 25/6/1998.
  • 3. SIDS and Kids. Safe sleeping [brochure]. (Brochures available from SIDS and Kids, ph. 1300 308 307.)
  • 4. Child and Youth Health, Government of South Australia. Safe sleep. (accessed Apr 2007).
  • 5. Child Death and Serious Injury Review Committee. Annual report 2005–2006. Adelaide: Government of South Australia, 2006.


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