Safe Sleeping Space
Infants spend a lot of time sleeping, so it is important that their sleeping area is safe.Medical and child safety experts have identified quite a few hazards when infants are sleeping or trying to sleep, and found that certain things can help reduce the risk of death and injuries. While babies are asleep they may get into dangerous situations.
To keep your baby safe while sleeping:
- Place your baby on their back to sleep, in a cot in the room with you.
- Don’t let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby.
- Don’t share a bed with your baby, particularly if you’ve been drinking alcohol, if you take drugs or if you’re a smoker.
- Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.
- Don’t let your baby get too hot.
- Keep your baby’s head uncovered. Their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders.
- Place your baby in the ‘feet to foot’ position (with their feet at the end of the cot or pram).
The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back in a cot in a room with you for the first six to twelve months.
Place your baby on their back to sleep
Place your baby on their back to sleep from the very beginning, for both day and night sleeps. This will reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). It’s not as safe for babies to sleep on their sides as on their backs. Healthy babies placed on their backs are not more likely to choke.
When the baby is old enough to roll over, don’t prevent them from doing so.
The risks of bed sharing
The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first six to twelve months is in a cot in a room with you. Don’t share a bed with your baby, particularly if you or your partner:
- are smokers (no matter where or when you smoke and even if you never smoke in bed)
- have recently drunk alcohol
- have taken medication or drugs that make you sleep more heavily
- feel very tired.
- The risks of bed sharing are also increased if your baby:
- was premature (born before 37 weeks), or
- was of low birth weight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5lb).
There’s also a risk that you might roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby. Or your baby could get caught between the wall and the bed, or roll out of an adult bed and be injured.
Never sleep with a baby on a sofa or armchair
It’s lovely to have your baby with you for a cuddle or a feed, but it’s safest to put your baby back in their cot before you go to sleep.
Don’t let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
Babies exposed to cigarette smoke after birth are at increased risk of SUDI . Nobody should smoke in the house, including visitors. Anyone who needs to smoke should go outside. Don’t take your baby into smoky places. If you’re a smoker, sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of SUDI.
Don’t let your baby get too hot (or too cold)
Overheating can increase the risk of SUDI. Babies can overheat because of too much bedding or clothing, or because the room is too hot.
When you check your baby, make sure they’re not too hot. If your baby is sweating or their tummy feels hot to the touch, take off some of the bedding. Don’t worry if your baby’s hands or feet feel cool. This is normal. It’s easier to adjust for the temperature by using lightweight blankets. Remember, a folded blanket counts as two blankets. Babies don’t need hot rooms. All-night heating is rarely necessary. Keep the room at a temperature that’s comfortable for you at night. About 18°C (65°F) is comfortable. If it’s very warm, your baby may not need any bedclothes other than a sheet. Even in winter, most babies who are unwell or feverish don’t need extra clothes. Babies should never sleep with a hot-water bottle or electric blanket, next to a radiator, heater or fire, or in direct sunshine. Babies lose excess heat through their heads, so make sure their heads can’t be covered by bedclothes during sleep periods. Remove hats and extra clothing as soon as you come indoors or enter a warm car, bus or train, even if it means waking your baby.
About 18°C (65°F) is comfortable. If it’s very warm, your baby may not need any bedclothes other than a sheet. Even in winter, most babies who are unwell or feverish don’t need extra clothes. Babies should never sleep with a hot-water bottle or electric blanket, next to a radiator, heater or fire, or in direct sunshine. Babies lose excess heat through their heads, so make sure their heads can’t be covered by bedclothes during sleep periods. Remove hats and extra clothing as soon as you come indoors or enter a warm car, bus or train, even if it means waking your baby.
Don’t let your baby’s head become covered
Babies whose heads are covered with bedding are at increased risk of SUDI. To prevent your baby wriggling down under the covers, place them in the ‘feet to foot’ position. This means that their feet are at the end of the crib, cot or pram.
Make the covers up so that they reach no higher than the shoulders. Tuck the covers in securely so that they can’t slip over the baby’s head. Use one or more layers of lightweight blankets. Use a baby mattress that’s firm, flat, well-fitting and clean, and waterproof on the outside. Cover the mattress with a single sheet. Don’t use duvets, quilts, baby nests, wedges, bedding rolls or pillows.
Wrapping / swaddling your baby
Research has shown that one of the best ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and SUDI is to sleep your baby on their back. Some babies do have difficulty settling and staying asleep whilst on in this position, so wrapping can be a useful method to help them to settle and stay asleep. Wrapping has been shown to reduce the amount of crying time and episodes of waking.
- Ensure that baby is positioned on the back with the feet at the bottom of the cot.
- Ensure that baby is wrapped from below the neck to avoid covering the face.
- Sleep baby with face uncovered (no doonas, pillows, cot bumpers, lambs wool or soft toys in the sleeping environment).
- Use only lightweight wraps such as cotton or muslin (bunny rugs and blankets are not safe alternatives as they may cause overheating)
- The wrap should not be too tight as this may interfere with physical development
- Make sure that baby is not over dressed under the wrap. Use only nappy and Singlet in warmer weather and add a lightweight grow suit in cooler weather.
- Loose wraps can be hazerdous as they can cover the baby’s head and face.
For wrapping to be effective, the wrap needs to be firm but not too tight. Techniques that use tight wrapping with legs straight and together increase the risk of abnormal hip development. Allow for hip and chest wall expansion when wrapping. Most babies eventually resist being wrapped. This is usually around the age of six months. An alternative to wrapping is to use a safe infant sleeping bag.
Safe infant sleeping bag
A safe infant sleeping bag is constructed in such a way that the baby cannot slip inside the bag and become completely covered. The sleeping bag should be the correct size for the baby with a fitted neck, armholes (or sleeves) and no hood.
When using a sleeping bag ensure that the baby is dressed according to the room temperature and do not use sleeping bags with quilts or doonas. If additional warmth is needed, a light blanket is usually all that is necessary, but take care to tuck the blanket in firmly so it cannot ride up and cover baby’s head during sleep. Another way to provide additional warmth is to dress your baby in layers of clothing within the sleeping bag to keep baby warm.
Benefits of sleeping bags:
Evidence suggests that sleeping bags may assist in reducing the incidence of SUDI, SIDS and fatal sleep accidents, possibly because they delay the baby rolling in to the high-risk tummy position. Sleeping bags prevent legs from dangling out of the cot rails.
For more information visit:
Updated July 2016