When it comes to bringing your baby home for the first time, it's a very exciting moment but it can also cause parents some worries about how best to keep your baby safe.
Let's not beat around the bush, the fear of SIDs (Sudden Infant Death or otherwise known as cot death) is on the mind of any new parent, and as worrying as it is, there are lots of actions we can take within the home to ensure baby stays healthy and well.
The most reliable source of information around safe sleep is clearly set out by The Lullaby Trust and should be the first place you look for information on safe sleep. The Lullaby Trust pulls together information based on the latest data and therefore is generally much more reliable than any other source you may find on the internet.
So let's take a look at Safe Sleep tips and some of the questions that I get asked frequently.
Babies should always be put down to sleep on their backs, with their feet at the bottom of the cot, moses basket or crib. If using a blanket, this should be tucked under your baby's arms and tucked in neatly at the side. The reason for putting feet at the bottom of the cot is to stop your little one wriggling down and getting caught in the blanket.
What happens if my baby turns over in the night? Babies usually start to roll around 4-6 months. Once your little one starts rolling, you might find they roll onto their tummies to sleep which is the preferred position of many children and as long as they can roll back its fine for them to do so. Tummy sleeping is particularly popular in children who suffer with reflux or colic as it can be soothing on their little stomachs.
In beautiful summer days, houses can become very warm and it can be difficult to keep the room cool. The best way is to keep windows open throughout the day and blinds down. Use adequate clothing and ensure not to overheat baby. Gro have a great guide on their website which provides details of how to dress your little one depending on the temperature of the room.
Also, purchase a low tog sleeping bag. There are some fantastic ones out there, I particularly like Halo's "SleepSack" sleeping bag, which are really light for this hot weather. When its super hot babies can just sleep in a vest or nappy, with or without the low tog sleeping bag.
Where should my baby sleep?
The recommendation is to have your little one in the same room as you until 6 months. You may be co-sleeping with your baby, so it's important to follow the safe sleep guidelines for co-sleeping.
Our co-sleeping advice
Babies should be slept in a clear sleep space, which is easy to create in a cot or Moses basket. We know however that families also bed share, and so recommend making your bed a safer place for baby whether you doze off accidentally, or choose to bed share. Our advice on co-sleeping with your baby will tell you how. For safer co-sleeping:
- Keep pillows, sheets, blankets away from your baby or any other items that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat. A high proportion of infants who die as a result of SIDS are found with their head covered by loose bedding.
- Follow all of our other safer sleep advice to reduce the risk of SIDS such as sleeping baby on their back
- Avoid letting pets or other children in the bed
- Make sure baby won’t fall out of bed or get trapped between the mattress and the wall
When not to co-sleep
It is important for you to know that there are some circumstances in which co-sleeping with your baby can be very dangerous:
- Either you or your partner smokes (even if you do not smoke in the bedroom)
- Either you or your partner has drunk alcohol or taken drugs (including medications that may make you drowsy)
- Your baby was born premature (before 37 weeks)
- Your baby was born at a low weight (2.5kg or 5½ lbs or less)
- Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby, this can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times
You should never sleep together with your baby if any of the above points apply to you or your partner.
Co-sleeping with your baby: FAQs
I am worried I might fall asleep while I breastfeed my baby at night, is this ok?
Breastfeeding reduces the chance of SIDS, so we would always try and help you work out a way to continue breastfeeding in the safest way possible. If you feel you might fall asleep we would recommend you prepare the bed as described above so it is safer for baby if this happens. Make sure you know the advice on when never to bed share so you know when to take particular care. It is really important that you do not accidentally fall asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair. If you think you might fall asleep on a sofa or armchair, put the baby down in a safe place to sleep.
Should I co-sleep with my baby?
It is very much a personal choice so we would just advise you to read all the information on safer co-sleeping so you can make an informed decision. That way even if you decide not to co-sleep you can make your bed a safer place for your baby if you doze off accidentally.
There are some circumstances where we would strongly recommend against co-sleeping such as on a sofa or armchair, if anyone in the bed smokes or has drunk alcohol or the baby was premature or a low birth weight.
Is it safer to co-sleep using a nest or pod than with a baby just lying on the adult bed?
No. We do not recommend that babies sleep on soft surfaces such as pods or nests. If you choose to co-sleep with your baby the safest place is a clear space on a firm flat mattress the same as we would advise with a cot.
What bedding should I use for my baby when we co-sleep?
To avoid loose bedding a sleeping bag would be advisable. You can choose different togs for different seasons to help keep your baby at the right temperature. You can also select different sizes depending on the age of your baby. It is important that the sleeping bag fits well around the shoulders so that your baby’s head does not slip down into the bag.
Your little one should sleep on a firm, flat mattress that has been purchased solely for them. This is very important as between uses, mattresses may have been stored and bacteria can easily grow on the foam that makes up the mattress. This allows for bacteria to breed and can be harmful for your baby's respiratory system.
There should be no toys in the cot and there should be 3cm or less between the edge of the cot and the mattress to prevent any entrapment.
I get asked a lot about different sleep aids and products but I strongly believe in setting out a routine from an early age for your little one, which is as natural as possible and doesn't fully depend on these types of products.
What should I do about sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation can be one of the hardest adaptations for new parents. When you're tired (and trust me - I've been there), you will do anything to get your baby to sleep and this can often mean not following the safe sleep guidelines, which is understandable. If sleep deprivation is affecting you, it may be time for you to look at sleep training with your little one. This both ensures safer sleep for your child and some sleep for you.
I’m a baby and toddler sleep consultant specialising in designing gentle sleep training programmes for babies and toddlers. I work with clients on a one to one basis and I also have a series of age-specific online courses for you to implement at your own pace.
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