There are few greater joys in the early months than getting your baby off to sleep.
Not only does it give you a chance to rest but it feels like a good job has been done – your child is contented and ready to rest. Babies also look gorgeous asleep. However, safe sleeping is also one of a new parent’s biggest worries, even though cot death is, fortunately, still quite rare.
Cot death or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome refers to any death of a young baby which is unexpected and unexplained. Although it is understandable to be concerned for your child, research has at least given us some good guidelines for helping our babies to sleep happily and healthily.
Your baby should sleep in your room at night until he is six months old.
Make sure the room in which your baby sleeps (for daytime naps and in the night) is always about 16 to 18°C – not too cold or hot. Some parents like to have a room thermometer or opt for a baby monitor that has an inbuilt room thermometer. However a good rule of thumb would be, does the temperature feel comfortable for you in light clothing?
Your baby’s cot should have a clean mattress that snugly fits the frame – it must not be too large for the frame thus rolling up or be too small, leaving large gaps between the frame and the edge of the mattress. If you are using a cot that has been in the attic since it was used for another child, buy a new mattress that fits correctly and check that the frame is not damaged in any way.
Put your baby to sleep with his feet at the bottom of his cot so that he can’t wriggle further down and get his head lost under any bedding. Use just enough blanket cover for warmth rather than heat. If using a blanket make sure it is tucked in so that it only comes up to his chest and there is not danger of him wriggling down below the sheets. If you are worried about blankets rising over your baby’s head, use a sleeping bag instead. These are specially designed baby sleeping bags that leave arms free and fit around your baby so his face cannot get covered. They also ensure he can’t kick the bedding off and get too cold.
Babies do not need pillows. Do not use pillows until your child is much older and ready for a regular bed. And never use an electric blanket or hot water bottle; if the weather is colder, use a second blanket and check regularly that this has not made your sleeping baby too hot.
If your baby is sleeping during the day, either place the cot of crib in the rooms you are using or put your baby somewhere else safe to sleep – not propped on cushions on a sofa or armchair.
Safe sleeping do’s and don’ts
- Do not smoke during your pregnancy or spend time with people who are smoking in your presence during pregnancy.
- Do not allow anyone to smoke in your home now you have a small baby, even in a room away from the child.
- Keep your baby at a safe temperature, not too high or too low. If your baby falls asleep while you are out and you come back indoors, always take off any coat or hat. Do not leave these on for fear of waking your child. To check your baby is not too hot or cold, rest the back of your hand on his chest or the back of his neck. His hands and feet are not a good gauge of his body temperature.
- Do not share a bed with your baby when your baby is less than three months old, or at all if your baby was born prematurely or was small at birth. Do not share your bed at all if you or your partner smokes (even if you do not smoke in bed), or if you feel very tired, have been drinking or are taking medication that might make you very drowsy.
- Do not sleep with your baby on a sofa or chair when you might doze off yourself. If you want to breastfeed laying down next to him, do so and then put him back in his cot before going to sleep yourself.
- If your baby usually sleeps with a dummy make sure the dummy is always in his mouth when he sleeps during the first six months.
- If your baby is unwell, get the symptoms checked out as soon as possible.
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