Sleep safety rightly so, is one of the many topics close to the hearts of all new parents. The Lullaby Trust have excellent advice regarding safe sleep for your little ones, and also new advice regarding co-sleeping.
Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few points to keep in mind to ensure your baby is safe when sleeping.
Always place your baby on their back to sleep
To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or cot death) babies should always be placed to sleep on their back.
Babies at some point do learn to turn around and will start to have a mind of their own, so the current guidelines state that:
- If a baby is younger than 6 months, and once you’ve placed them to sleep on their back, they turn onto their stomach in their sleep, you should gently turn them back.
- If they are older than 6 months, you’ve placed them to sleep on their back, but they turn themselves around, you can leave them.
- If in doubt and feel more reassured, you can continue to turn your baby onto their back if they are older than 6 months and turn themselves onto their stomach.
Please remember that should a baby be sick in their sleep, they have the ability to instinctively turn their head to the side. Therefore it is best not to put a baby to sleep on their side either, as they could easily turn themselves onto their stomach from this position.
Do not smoke around your baby
It has been taught to us for many years, how smoking negatively impacts our health. Living in a smoke-free environment becomes even more important when it come to our babies.
Here are some of the ways smoke can affect a baby:
- The smoke from cigarettes and cigars deprive the baby of oxygen, and this can interfere with the development of the brain areas that control breathing.
- Harmful chemicals enter the baby’s body when they are exposed to passive smoke.
- It’s been found that levels of ‘good cholesterol’, which helps to protect the heart, are lower in babies who are exposed to passive smoke. Therefore their little hearts could be at risk too.
- The tiny nasal passages of babies are very sensitive to smoke and other irritants and allergens. Some babies also find it harder to breathe through their mouth when their noses are blocked. Stuffy and blocked nasal passages can interfere with good breathing.
Statistics indicate that if both parents smoke, a baby’s SIDS risk is more than 3 times higher than if neither of the parents smoke.
Do not sleep in the same bed or room as your baby if:
- Your baby was born prematurely (37 weeks or less)
- Your baby was of low-birth weight (2.5kg or less)
- You or your partner smoke
- You have been drinking or taken drugs
- You are extremely tired
These are huge factor in which research says increases the risk of SIDS in a baby.
If you would like to share a bed with your baby and don’t fall into any of the categories above, you should research how to do it safely. This includes thinking about a sleeping environment where the baby cannot fall off the bed, wedge themselves between the mattress and the headboard. And do not come in to contact with pillows and duvets, which can be suffocation hazards. Please see The Lullaby Trust for further information.
Please be aware that although bed-sharing is safely practised by many families around the world. The advice states that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a separate cot or crib in your room for the first 6 months of their life.
Stay safe and do not sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
There is agreement around the world that falling asleep with a baby on a sofa or armchair is never safe. This also applies if a baby was to ever fall asleep on a sofa or armchair alone. If a parent fell asleep whilst holding their baby, this will more than likely result in the parent letting go and the baby potentially getting hurt. Sofa cushions can present a suffocation hazard, and are not a firm enough surface for a baby to sleep on.
Remove all objects from your baby’s place of sleep
If your baby sleeps in a cot or crib, consider removing any soft toys or objects that could interfere with the baby when they are sleeping. For your peace of mind the less cuddly toys, additional bedding, including cot bumpers you have around your sleeping baby, the better. If you want to avoid items like blankets getting in the way of your sleeping baby, you can try and place your baby in a baby sleeping bag. This will ensure the baby is kept warm and will prevent them from wriggling out of their covers, keeping them safe.
Reference: the natal family