baby safe sleeping

Safe sleeping practices for babies are a favourite subject.  It’s been a while since I’ve given any updates, so I thought it would be worthwhile doing a round-up. I have included not only safe sleeping tips but also general tips on better baby sleep.

1.       Let’s start with SIDS & Kids and their recommendations:

a.       Mattress firmness reduces SIDS deaths fivefold – make sure the mattress yu choose has passed the voluntary standard for firmness (AS/NZS Voluntary Standard: Methods of testing infant products – Sleep surfaces – Test for firmness)

b.       The mattress should be snug to the sides of the cot – ideally no gaps between the mattress and cot sides; and absolutely flat

c.       Maximum breathability in and around cot – eg no bumpers, breathable mattress

d.       A baby should sleep on their back, ideally in a safe cot or bassinet next to adult care givers’ bed that meets current Australian Standards

e.       The baby’s feet should be at the bottom of the cot or bassinet

f.        Keep baby 'smoke free' before and after birth, ie away from cigarette smoke

g.       Avoid keeping a baby in the parents bed or on couch – for long or short sleeps

h.       Keep head and face uncovered

i.         Bedding should be kept to a minimum - no: pillow, cot bumper, loose lamb’s wool, soft toy e.g: teddy, doona

j.         If using a blanket, then ensure it is firmly tucked into the sides of the cot or bassinet.

k.       If using a baby sleeping bag, swaddle or wrap ensure that it is the right one for your baby’s age and current weather conditions – e.g. babies who are rolling should not have their arms constrained; use only a singlet/light romper and nappy in warm weather or light grow suit in cooler weather

l.         Baby sleep bags or wraps should be made of muslin or light cotton.  Do not use bunny rugs and blankets as they may cause over-heating; no hoods

m.     A baby sleep bag or wrap needs to be firm but not too tight to allow for natural hip and chest wall expansion. Wrapping legs tight, straight and together may increase the risk of abnormal hip development. Loose wraps are hazardous as they can cover baby’s head and face

2.       No strings: Keep any type of string or rope away from the cot or bassinet – i.e. Position the cot away from curtain cords; do not put dummy ties or teething necklaces of any sort into the cot with a sleeping baby; decorative garlands should be at a safe distance; no toys with strings

3.       No head cover: Don’t put hoods, hats or bibs on the baby while sleeping; and if baby has fallen asleep in the pram make sure they are not covered in any way and are supervised.

4.      Temperature control: make sure that the baby and the room are at a comfortable temperature.  An overheated baby is dangerous; a baby that is uncomfortable won’t be sleeping peacefully.  Ensure that you have a non-synthetic breathable mattress and the baby is dressed appropriately for the weather and room temperature and is, ideally, dressed night attire that is made from organic or natural materials.

5.       Wrapping:  Studies have shown that wrapping can have a calming, sleep-promoting effect, increasing sustained sleep and reduce the frequency of spontaneous awakenings. There are different wraps for different age groups and temperatures and to get the maximum benefit from wrapping and keep it safe, you must use the appropriate type of wrap.  Keep in mind, also, that every baby is different and you may not get the right wrap the first time. You may have to change the style you use until you find one that baby feels comfortable in. And don’t be frustrated if your baby just doesn’t like being wrapped. It happens.  The below is a quick guide

a.       Muslin or cotton unstructured wraps are great for newborns but harder to use for growing babies as they are very loose and come undone quite easily. You can keep using an unstructured wrap for as long as it works for baby, by not wrapping the arms once baby has started to show signs of rolling.

b.       Structured wraps for newborns restrain the arms so that baby can sleep and not wake due to startle reflex. It should not be too tight, natural movement of chest and legs should be maintained.  A wrap with restricted arm movement should not be used once baby is rolling. 

c.       Structured wraps for rolling babies – you can buy wraps that have gradual introduction of arms for transitioning i.e. one arm at a time.  You would start using this at around 4 months and transition to a bag or wrap that has complete arm movement.

d.       TOG ratings help you choose the right bag for the weather and room temperature.  The smaller the number the less warm the sleeping bag is.  Eg ergoPouch – 0.2 rated is for warm weather, summer conditions; 2.5 tog for colder, winter temperatures.

6.       No distractions – babies need mobiles to play not to sleep.  Keep distraction in or around the cot to an absolute minimum. The cot must be a restful place.

7.       Burp well – An uncomfortable baby is a wide-awake baby. Make sure that you spend a good amount of time burping the baby during and after the feed.  

8.       Additional peace of mind can be bought – you can buy under mattress monitors or pads that react if baby stops breathing. The simpler, more common monitors are the video monitors that either connect to your mobile or to a compatible monitoring device.