When it comes to babies, nothing is more important than their safety and wellbeing. This is just as important when they are asleep, as when they are awake.
In order to reduce the chance of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) it is important that Safe Sleep guidelines are followed for all sleeps, not just those which take place at night.
Different countries may have different guidelines relating to safe sleep. In the UK the charity The Lullaby Trust exists with the sole purpose of trying to prevent SIDS from occurring. They inform of safe sleep guidelines based on the most up to date research.
In order to prevent SIDs it is recommended to follow the following 6 guidelines:
Baby should be placed on their back during sleep time:
A baby should be placed on their back for all sleeps, both during the day and at night. This can reduce the rate of SIDS by 6 times compared to being placed on their front (Lullaby Trust). Their feet should be at the foot of the cot or crib, often referred to as ‘the feet to foot’ position.
Once a baby begins to roll they are able to find their own comfortable position. The first few times they do so parents might like to gently turn them back if they get stuck or are in need of support. But otherwise, they can roll and find their own position, provided they are placed on their back at the start of sleep.
In order to counterbalance the time spend on their backs, it is recommended that baby should be provided with adequate supervised tummy time during the day, outside of sleep times.
A baby should share a room with their parent for at least the first 6 months:
This is thought to reduce the risk of SIDS by up to half (Lullaby Trust). This applies to all sleeps, not just those which take place at night. However, 6 months is the recommend minimum, and many parents choose to keep their baby in the same room as them for a longer period.
This also makes it easier for parents to respond to their baby’s individual needs. Young babies need regular feeds, reassurance, and nappy changes. Some families’ breast / chest feed and others choose to bottle feed.
For those who choose formula feeding, they may find the Baby Brezza Formula Pro Advanced beneficial, as it makes bottles with ease, allowing the parent to spend more time attuned with their baby, giving them the emotional support they require, as opposed to their attention being focused on a bottle preparation.
Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with a baby:
This can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times (Lullaby Trust). If you feel yourself becoming sleepy whilst holding baby on a sofa or armchair, either place baby in a safe sleep environment or ask another adult to take over the care of baby whilst you obtain some rest.
Baby should sleep on a flat, firm, clear surface:
Babies should sleep on a flat, firm mattress which contains a waterproof cover. This is to ensure the mattress is kept clean and dry. The mattress must be in good condition and the waterproof sheet fit the mattress correctly. Sheets should also be well fitted.
As the surface should be flat, items such as baby hammocks are therefore not recommended, as they do not comply with this advice. Babies must never sleep in a baby bouncer or stationary car seat.
As the surface should be firm, pods and nests to not comply with safe sleep guidelines and should therefore not be used. Babies should be placed in the feet-to-foot position and quilts, pillows and duvets avoided. Sleeping bags should be the correct size and there should be no danger that the baby’s head should be able to go below the head hole. If using a blanket, it should be firmly tugged in and should not be above shoulder height. Remember if a blanket is folded it doubles the tog and this should be noted to prevent overheating.
Many families find that their new-born baby sleeps well when using a swaddle. However it is important that babies are not swaddled in such a way that it is too tight around their hips, or results in excess material around their face, which could be a safety concern. Love to Dream swaddles therefore make an excellent choice, as they are approved by the Hip Dysplasia society and zip up to ensure that there is no excess material around baby’s face. A swaddled baby must always be placed on their back.
Once they show signs that they are beginning to roll, then it must no longer be used – Love to Dream have a transitional swaddle, with zip off sleeves to assist with this transition. The cot should remain clear of pillows, toys, comforters and cot bumpers. Cot bumpers are now banned across the United States.
Temperature should be between 16 – 20 degrees:
We want to ensure that baby is not at risk of overheating. The recommended room temperature is 16 – 20 degrees-Celsius. The temperature rating of the sleepwear should be adjusted depending on the temperature of the room. Love To Dream swaddles and sleep bags come in a range of temperature ratings to adapt accordingly.
A room thermometer is helpful to determine the temperature of the sleep environment. It can also be useful to place your hand on the back of baby’s neck. This can help to gauge baby’s core temperature. If they feel warm, loose a layer of clothing, or reduce the temperature rating of their sleepwear. If they feel cool, then increase the temperature rating. It is also recommended that the cot / bed should not be placed directly beside a radiator or window to prevent overheating, and that babies should not wear hats indoors, and particularly not for sleep.
Young babies often preference nose breathing. When they have a cold, this can impact their sleep as their nasal passage is congested. A humidifier can provide moisture to the nasal area, helping to promote breathing and sleep. A cold mist humidifier is the safest choice to use with young children.
The Crane Humidifier, which also includes a white noise machine, makes an excellent safe choice for baby.
Additional guidelines for bed-sharing:
Whilst Safe Sleep Guidelines recommends that baby sleep in their own sleep space, many families choose to bed share. For these families it is important that Safe Sleep Guidelines relating to safe bedsharing are followed.
- Baby’s sleep space should be kept clear. It should be free from pillows, sheets, blankets or any other item’s which could obstruct baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat.
- All other safe sleep guidance followed, such as sleeping baby on their back
- There should be no pets or other children in the bed
- Ensure baby can’t fall out or become trapped between the mattress and the bed
Advice on when not to co-sleep include:
- If any adults in the bed smoke
- If any adults in the bed have consumed alcohol, drugs or are extremely tired
- If a baby was born prematurely (before 37 weeks)
- If a baby was born with a low birth weight (5.5lb or under)
- Never sleep with a baby on an armchair or sofa
In the UK, Safe Sleep Guidelines are recommended for all babies aged from birth to 12 months. For more details on promoting safe sleep visit the Lullaby Trust.
Meet The Expert – Susan Wallace
Susan has 2 decades experience working with children and families. She is a registered Social Worker, with over 10 years experience and has an Education Degree from Cambridge University.
She has worked as a SEN (Special Educational Needs) Nanny, in a Day Nursery and with Disadvantaged children in both The Philippines and Mexico. She is a Certified Infant Sleep Consultant and acts as a Community Coordinator for the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants. She also supports others to become Certified Baby Massage Instructors, Baby Yoga Instructors and Family Centred Infant Sleep Consultants through FEDANT Accredited Training.
Her own business is called Settled Petals and supports both families and those wishing to open or add to their own business to support children and families.