Safe Sleeping What’s The Best Practice?
So you’ve been handed a baby, given all of the instructions and you’ve read all the books. Once they are home it’s often time to decide just which sleeping option is appropriate for you.
There’s no right and wrong way to put your baby to bed, but there’s guidance that can help make it as safe as possible.
Nobody wants to think about the consequences if you don’t follow the recommended best practices, but the statistics on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) speak for themselves. If you can avoid any of the common pitfalls then all the better.
Where to sleep?
Babies need an incredible amount of sleep, especially when they are newborns. Finding where your baby best settles can be one of the most challenging aspects of raising a newborn.
Do they prefer a moses basket? Do they sleep best in a cot? Perhaps they nap best with contact with mummy or daddy. Either way, you’ll have to go with what the baby chooses.
Moses baskets offer a brilliant way to look after a baby at night. Often mounted on stands which can be rocked, they mean babies can be tucked in tight with blankets under their own weight and they can be kept warm with either onesies, sleep suits or other newborn wear.
It allows you to keep a keen eye on the baby from bed, deal with any upset in the night and to rock the baby gently to sleep.
Cots, particularly with fittings that elevate newborns are perfect for co-sleeping too. Simply have the cot at the side or at the end of your bed for those first six months and you can be sure of keeping an eye on the baby as they negotiate those first few months of sleep.
These can then be lowered once the baby starts sitting up and even standing. Travel cots can also be utilised as playpens later on, meaning a secure, safe way to place baby away from danger if you need your hands free.
Why not check out our Millie & Ralph blog recommendations for more expert tips, advice and ideas.
How best to let the baby sleep?
The most common instance of SIDS comes from suffocation. A newborn isn’t developed enough to deal with anything covering their mouth or nose in a way that we are. That's why sleeping position is really important.
That instinct to move your head or brush away a stray blanket or sheet in the night is just not there yet for babies and so loose material is a real no-no. In a cot, the advice generally given and backed up by baby charities like The Lullaby Trust advise that you should not leave pillows, blankets, duvets or soft toys loose in a cot.
The advice is to:
- Have a tightly fitted sheet on the mattress
- Do not use ‘cot bumpers’ at all
- Get rid of loose sheets that could be lifted over a baby’s head
- Remove pillows, soft toys and material like teething squares
This means that having your baby in a vest, onesie and sleep suit according to the temperature is enough. There is also the option of tucking a small blanket in a tight bundle around the baby's legs, but have it only reach their lower chest.
This means they are secured in place and the blanket has no chance of being pulled upwards.
The use of cot bumpers has been discouraged generally. The strings or attachments involved mean bumpers can increase the risk of choking and coming loose, and can also act as more potential material to suffocate from.
Positioning is important too. Some babies just prefer to sleep on their bellies, however this is proven to be an issue for SIDS, especially as babies who cannot lift their own heads will find it difficult to do so when their face is resting directly on their mattress. The guidance recommends babies under 6 months should sleep on their backs.
Once they have reached 6 months, they will most likely find their own comfortable positions, but by then they should be able to avoid suffocation and any hazards you might conceive of.
Sofas and armchairs are dangerous places to fall asleep with your baby. It's best to move somewhere safer if you might fall asleep.
This is because the risk of SIDS is 50 times higher for babies when they sleep on a sofa or armchair with an adult. They can easily slip into a position where they are trapped and can’t breathe.
Any time you think you might fall asleep with your baby, make sure they are on their back in a clear, safe space. Remember, the chance of SIDS is lower when babies sleep in a room with an adult than when they sleep alone.
What about mattresses?
This is an easy one, a clean, waterproof and straight mattress is all that you need. As long as it is fitted to your moses basket or cot with no give at the edges, you are good to go. If there are gaps of more than a few centimetres, then it might be a better idea to find one that fits perfectly.
Guidance also suggests that a new mattress should be purchased with a flat sleep surface, although rare, SIDS can occur if a mattress is less than perfect and inheriting a second hand one even from family should be taken seriously if you are considering it.
Take a look at the condition and weigh up whether it comes to the kind of standards you'd expect when buying a new one. If there are any doubts in your mind, it’s probably best to rethink accepting it. This is one area where it is worth paying out for new.
Want to find out more? Visit The Lullaby Trust for more information on baby safety. Want to see what our options are when it comes to newborn sleepwear?