The deaths of two babies in New Brunswick as a result of co-sleeping with adults will see social workers review safe sleeping practices with parents, says the minister of Social Development.

Madeleine Dubé made the comments on Monday in response to the recommendations of New Brunswick's child death review committee.

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Social workers will now review safe sleeping practices and safe sleeping surfaces with the parents of very young children, says Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé. (iStock)

"The protection of children is one of our primary concerns," said Dubé.

The committee reported on April 11 on the deaths of two infants whose families were known to child protective services.

Both deaths appear related to co-sleeping, although few details are given about the cases. It is not stated where the deaths occurred, or when.

Co-sleeping, which is also called bed-sharing, is a practice where parents share a bed with their infant. A study published in the British Medical Journal in May 2013 concluded that co-sleeping was a "significant" risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) for the first 15 weeks of life in "the absence of . . . all other risk factors."

The recommendations of the committee investigating the two infant deaths in New Brunswick included:

  • The social development department reinforce with its clients the danger of co-sleeping with infants and children.
  • The department reinforce with its clients the dangers of unsafe sleep surfaces, such as couches, for infants and children, and educate clients on appropriate sleep surfaces, such as cribs and beds.
  • Prior to a newborn's release from hospital, the dangers of co-sleeping with infants be reinforced with parents by social workers and any other agencies working with parents in pre-natal and post-natal care.

In her response, Dubé said social workers in child protection and family services continually assess the living conditions of a child, with particular attention to the child's sleeping area.

The department will amend its practice standards to recommend that in the case of infants and very young children, social workers review safe sleeping practices and safe sleeping surfaces with the parent, Dubé said.

The department will also provide copies of the Loving Care series of booklets at its regional offices, include links to a health website featuring the Loving Care series, and to the Public Health Agency of Canada website, which offers instructional videos, she said.

New Brunswick's child death review committee reviews sudden and unexpected death of all children under the age of 19 in the province.

In cases where the child had received services from the social development department, the minister is provided with recommendations that relate to the services provided by the department.

Under the committee's terms of reference, the department must respond to recommendations within 45 days.