It can be an emotional mix of relief and anxiety when you put your newborn to bed. Relief for the well earned break you are about to enjoy and anxiety as you listen to every breath and look for every movement your baby makes. You need to know you are putting your baby to bed in the safest possible way. Remember that cot death or sudden infant death syndrome is very rare and you can reduce the risk even further by following the sleeping advice from the experts detailed below.
Put your baby on her back – You should always place your baby on her back to sleep on a firm and flat mattress to reduce the risk of cot death. This applies to both night time and day time sleeps. Then when your baby is old enough to be rolling over do not try and prevent her from doing this. During the day you can make sure she has enough tummy time when she plays.
Safely tuck her into bed – It is a recognised risk of cot death when baby’s heads become covered by bed covers when they are sleeping. Place your baby in her cot with her feet at the foot of the cot and her blanket no higher than her shoulders. Make sure you use light blankets and sheets until your baby is twelve months old and always tuck them in firmly so that she cannot wriggle downwards underneath them. You can also use a baby sleeping-bag of the correct size. If it is too big she could wriggle and slip inside it.
In your room but not your bed – Most people now agree that sharing your bed with your baby is dangerous whether the parents smoke or not. At times, you may think that sleeping with your baby in your bed is convenient but accidents can happen too easily. You could roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby or your baby could get stuck between the wall and the bed or she could fall out of the bed and injure herself.
The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) gives the clear advice that the safest place for your baby to sleep is in her own cot in the same room as you for the first six months and this applies to day time naps and night time sleeps. They also say that if you put your baby in her own room before six months the risk of cot death is doubled. This might be because a baby sleeps more lightly when she shares a room with her parent/s.
The right temperature – It is important that your baby does not become too hot and that her head does not become covered. So use the correct bedding and keep the room temperature between 16-20 degrees C. It is recommended that 18 degrees C is just right.
Do not snooze with your baby on the sofa – FSID advises that you should never sleep on the sofa or in an armchair with your baby. It is too easy for you to be so asleep that you may not feel your baby slipping from you or rolling onto her front and possibly suffocating.
A pacifier/dummy may reduce the risk of cot death – Experts now say that settling your baby to sleep with a dummy can reduce the risk of cot death. This may be because a large handle of a dummy can help keep the baby’s nose and mouth clear of covers, the sucking motion may help improve the baby’s control of his upper airway, the pacifier might affect the position in which the baby sleeps in a positive way and also a dummy may keep your baby in a state of greater arousal which makes her less likely to suffer from breathing or heart problems whilst asleep. The FSID advice is that if you are breastfeeding; do not introduce a dummy until your baby is one month old when breastfeeding has been well established. Also, you can use a dummy for all naps and sleeps if you want but do not force your baby to suck her dummy if she does not want it. It is important that you never coat the dummy in anything sweet.
Stop smoking – Stop smoking during pregnancy and never let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby.
Breastfeeding could help reduce cot death – The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has revealed that breastfeeding even for a short amount of time can mean that your baby’s risk of cot death is reduced by a third.
By Eirian Hallinan