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Safe sleeping tips for babies

Updated on July 17, 2011

My sleeping tips

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a major concern amongst newborn babies. The experts here in Australia and around the world have developed a few tips for keeping newborn babies safe when they are sleeping. Below is a list of some of these tips and a few of my own suggestions based on my many years of working with families and young children. You should also note that these safety tips are only for very young babies. Once babies can move about and move or lift their heads they have usually passed the danger point for SIDS. This could be anywhere from 6 months or up. However, SIDS has been found to have occurred to children in up to 2 years of age.

You should also take into account that your own State, County or Country may have their own recommendations in relation to SIDS and you should consider this advice in conjunction with my advice. Also as always you should consult your health professionals if you have any concerns with your child's health.

Practical tips for keeping baby safe:

  1. Ensure that your babies cot, crib or bed meets the safety standards of your country. Most countries have a set of safety standards that all baby or children's goods must comply with. Do a google search and find list of acceptable standards before you go shopping.
  2. Ensure that your babies cot/crib is clear of all toys, pillows, soft sleeping spaces . These items can cover a baby's face and cause suffocation.
  3. When making a baby's cot/crib, ensure that you 'short sheet' the bed. This means that the babies feet should be touching the bottom of the cot/crib and the blankets and sheets only come up to your baby's shoulders. This way your baby cannot slip beneath the covers or pull the covers over their heads.
  4. Don't over heat your baby. Research shows that overheating your baby can be a risk factor in SIDS. In Australia we have things called 'sleeping bags'. They are similar design to the ones we might take camping, but they have 'arms', a close fitting neck, there is no hood and they have a zip down the front. If you baby does happen to get out of the blankets they won't get cold. Your baby should be warm & comfortable not hot. It is recommended that you use weaved or 'holey' blankets so that the baby's body can still breath whilst they are sleeping.
  5. Use a firm and well fitted mattress. Make sure there are no gaps between the mattress and the base of the cot/crib and that the matress is not soft so as to creat a 'cavern' that the baby can slip into. You should also use a brand new mattress to ensure that no dust or mould is present in the matress.
  6. Ensure your baby is put to sleep on their backs. Research has shown that this is the safest positon for a baby to sleep in. Newborn or very young babies cannot move their heads and therefore risk suffocation if put to sleep on their stomachs or sides.
  7. Avoid smoking. Smoking has been linked to SIDS and the current recommendation is that parents do not smoke around their babies. If you are a smoker you should smoke outside, well away from your baby. You should also have a 'smoking jacket' that you put on and take off after smoking. You should also ensure you wash your hands thoroughly before touching your baby.
  8. Make sure that everyone who cares for your baby is aware of the SIDS recommendations for your area, county or country, but just in case, it won't hurt for you to give them a lesson in safe sleeping.


Dressing your baby for bed

As I said before being too hot in bed has been linked with SIDS and as such babies should be dressed accordingly. Your baby needs to be not to hot and not to cold. Here is a few ideas on how to ensure your baby is warm enough for bed.

  • Do not put your baby to bed in a hat or bonnet. Babies bodies are made to allow heat to escape from their heads. If their heads are covered the body will not be able to regulate itself at the right temperature.
  • To check if your child is warm enough feel their backs or stomachs. Having cold hands or feet does not mean that your baby is cold.
  • Once your child is old enough to move around, dress your child in enough clothes to keep them warm without blankets, otherwise they will wriggle out from underneath the blankets. This is where the sleeping bags I mentioned earlier could come in handy.
  • Make sure that your house and in particular the baby's room is not too hot. Don't be tempted to turn the heater up. All rooms in the house should be comfortable.

If you are thinking about using the sleeping bags I have mentioned, please check that it is impossible for your baby to slip down into the bag and have their head covered. The sleeping bags can also be useful if your baby does not like to be wrapped or swaddled.

Light and noise

Newborn and very young babies cannot tell the difference between night and day. Therefore, it will make no difference whether or not the blinds are closed or open or whether the light is on or off. However, as babies get older dimming/turning off the lights or blocking out the sun will lessen the stimulation around the baby and encourage them to rest, be calm and to settle.

If you want your baby to sleep through noise then you need to provide noise. A very young baby should be close to you anyway so bringing them into the lounge, kitchen or family room where ever you are will help them to get used to and sleep through noise. Do not make the house completely silent when the baby is sleeping. If you have older children this will be impossible anyway. You want the child to learn to sleep anywhere and any time they are tired. When my son was a baby and also till he was at least 10 years old, I could vacuum his bedroom while he was sleeping!

Some people suggest that you can use white noise or soothing music when your baby goes to sleep but I often wonder does that just create another issue you may have to deal with down the track? What if the CD player or IPOD breaks down? I think that everyday household noises including talking, TV, washing machines, ringing phones and older children are enough noise to encourage your baby to sleep through noise.


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