Sleeping Safely with a Baby

baby

Safe Sleep 

It’s lovely to cuddle a newborn baby, but it’s safer to put them back in their cot before they go to sleep.

The safest place for a baby to sleep for the first 6 months is in a cot, lying on their back, in the same room as the main carer. 

Always put the baby on their back for every sleep, day and night, as the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or sometimes referred to as ‘cot death’ is higher for babies who are sometimes placed on their front or side.

Babies are at higher risk of SIDS if they have their heads covered, so it is safer to keep the baby’s cot clear of any items such as a bumper, toys and loose bedding.

It is important to make sure that the baby’s room is a comfortable temperature – not too hot or too cold. The chance of SIDS is higher in babies who get too hot. Try to keep the room temperature between 16 -20°C.

Breastfeeding lowers the risk of SIDS. Breastfeeding for at least 2 months halves the risk of SIDS but the longer it is continued the more protection it will give.

If the mother or her partner smokes while pregnant or after the baby is born, the risk of SIDS is greatly increased.

What does a baby need to sleep safely?;

Cot or moses basket

The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a cot or Moses basket.

Make sure there are no toys or anything else that could cover their mouth or nose, or make them too hot.

For this reason it is advised against using cot bumpers, pillows and loose bedding.

Mattress

The mattress should be firm, flat and waterproof.

If possible, try to buy a new mattress rather than second hand. You can re-use a mattress from your own home as long as it has been stored somewhere clean, dry and smoke-free.

Check the mattress is firm enough by making sure the baby’s head does not sink into the mattress by more than a few millimetres.

If the mattress is not firm enough, it can make it difficult for them to lose heat and they can become too hot.

Sleeping pods or nests are not advised as they have raised or cushioned areas.

Babies should not have anything soft around them, especially near their heads, as this can cause them to overheat and increases the risk SID.  

Sleeping bags

Baby sleeping bags can help to reduce the risk of SIDS, as they prevent babies from wriggling underneath their bedding.

Just make sure it fits well around the shoulders so there’s no risk of the baby’s head slipping down into the bag.

Sleeping bags are usually given a tog rating according to the warmth they provide – make sure the baby is in the right bag for the time of year.

Depending on the room temperature and the tog, adjust the baby’s clothing as necessary. There should be no other bedding.

Commercial sleeping bags have the following tog ratings:

  • 2.5 tog: for use all year and for standard room temperatures of 16 to 20C (61 to 69F)
  • 1.0 tog: for use in warmer weather and in warmer rooms of 20 to 24C (69-to 73F)
  • 0.5 tog: for use in hot weather and warm room temperatures of 24 to 27C (73 to 80F)

Baby blankets

If you use baby blankets instead of a sleeping bag, lie the baby on their back with their feet nearest the foot of the cot or Moses basket. This prevents any loose bedding covering their face when they wriggle around.

A cellular cotton blanket is best as they provide warmth, but allows air flow.

The blanket should be tucked in firmly, no higher than the shoulders, and not doubled over as this can cause overheating.

Swaddling

Never put a swaddled baby to sleep on their front or side. The safest sleeping position for a baby (swaddled or not) is on their back. 

Use materials such as a thin muslin or thin cot sheet, and never place any additional bedding over a swaddled baby as they could cause them to overheat. 

Do not use blankets to swaddle a baby. 

Ensure the baby is not overdressed under the swaddle and has their head uncovered. 

Check the baby’s temperature to ensure they don’t t get too hot (the back of the neck is a good spot for this). If their skin is hot or sweaty, remove one or more layers of bedclothes. 

To reduce the risk of the baby’s face getting covered by loose material, they should be swaddled securely so the swaddle can’t come apart or undone. This is because loose, soft bedding can accidentally get pulled over a baby’s head, causing overheating or a breathing obstruction, increasing the chance of SIDS. 

However, swaddles should not be applied very tightly around the hips as this is a strongly associated with developmental dysplasia of the hip.

Never swaddle a baby when bed sharing or if they have an infection. 

Once a baby shows signs of rolling, stop swaddling them with their arms wrapped inside the material. This is because they may roll onto their tummy and not be able to roll back again without the use of their arms. 

As stated, the safest position for a baby to sleep is on their back, so we don’t want to risk them getting stuck on their tummy. 

baby sleeping

Helping babies to sleep

Some babies sleep much more than others. Some sleep for long periods, others in short bursts. Some soon sleep through the night, while some don’t for a long time.

Each baby will have their own pattern of waking and sleeping, and it’s unlikely to be the same as other babies you know.

Difference between day and night 

It’s a good idea to teach babies that night-time is different from daytime from the start. During the day, open curtains, play games and don’t worry too much about everyday noises when they sleep.

At night, you might find it helpful to:

  • keep the lights down low
  • not talk much and keep your voice quiet
  • put the baby down as soon as they’ve been fed and changed
  • not change the baby unless they need it
  • not play with the baby

The baby will gradually learn that night-time is for sleeping.

Bedtime routines

It may be appropriate to introduce a bedtime routine when the baby is around 3 months old. Getting them into a simple, soothing bedtime routine can be a great opportunity to have 1-to-1 time with the baby.

The routine could consist of:

  • having a bath
  • changing into night clothes and a fresh nappy
  • putting them to bed
  • reading a bedtime story  
  • dimming the lights in the room to create a calm atmosphere
  • singing a lullaby or having a wind-up musical mobile you can turn on when you’ve put the baby to bed
  • brushing their teeth (if they have any)

As the child gets older, it can be helpful to keep to a similar bedtime routine. Too much excitement and stimulation just before bedtime can wake your child up again. Spend some time winding down and doing some calmer activities, like reading.