It’s normal to worry about your little one’s wellbeing. As soon as they enter the world, it’s our job to keep them safe and to give them the best start in life. A good night’s sleep will leave you with a bouncing bundle of joy, and a safe night’s sleep can give you peace of mind.
We’ve put together some recommended sleep tips for your baby when it comes to their environment. Check out our blog post on the importance of sleep for babies to find out more about how much sleep they need, why they need it and ways in which you can help improve it.
Room sharing, bed sharing & solitary sleeping
Firstly, let’s define what these things are:
Room sharing: parent and baby sleep in the same room on separate surfaces (i.e. you in a bed and your baby in a cot or Moses basket).
Bed sharing: parent and baby sleep on the same surface (i.e. putting your baby to sleep in your bed with you).
Solitary sleeping: parent and baby sleep in separate rooms.
Many organisations, such as The Lullaby Trust, The NHS and the American Academy of Paediatrics advise that you should room share for at least the first six months to reduce the risks of SIDS (90% of SIDS deaths occur in babies under 6 months).
After the first six months, it’s up to you whether you continue to room share or move your baby into their own room – it may improve sleep quality for both of you (woohoo!) and get them used to not always being with you, which can help them with their sleep as they get older.
If you do choose to bed share
Bed sharing has always been commonplace throughout all societies, and it’s been found to help with breastfeeding. But as we advance, so does our knowledge of the safest sleep environments, so it’s very important to always follow the advice on how to keep your baby safe when bed sharing:
- Keep your baby away from adult bedding. Make sure there are no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could cover their head.
- Don’t leave them alone in the bed.
- Be aware of accidents that could happen (e.g. falling out of bed, getting trapped between the bed and the wall)
- It’s very important that you do not fall asleep with your baby in an armchair or on a sofa – this can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times!
Do not bed share if:
- You or your partner smoke
- You or your partner have drunk alcohol or taken drugs (including medication that might make you drowsy)
- You or your partner are overtired
- Your baby was born premature or had a low birth weight
If you have twins, you may choose to co-bed them (put them together in the same cot) for the first six months if you have limited space for cots. Just make sure to follow the same safe sleep guidelines mentioned in this post, as well as:
- Avoid putting them in a small cot as they may overheat.
- Do not place them too close to each other.
- As soon as they start to roll over, make sure you place them in the ‘feet to foot’ position (see below) at opposite ends of the cot. This can prevent them from obstructing each other’s breathing and reduce risks of SIDS.
- It may be easier to put just start putting them in the feet to foot position from birth.
What position should my baby sleep in?
Babies should be placed to sleep on their backs (the supine position) – again, this reduces risks of SIDS. If they roll onto their tummy you can gently turn them back, and make sure they’re getting plenty of tummy time during the day to improve their muscle strength. Worrying about whether your baby has turned onto their tummy can add to your list of anxieties – a Bluebell Smart Monitoring System will give you real-time alerts if your baby turns over (amongst many other things). It's a new type of baby monitoring, designed to give you peace of mind.
Feet to foot position
It’s important that your baby’s head doesn’t get covered while they sleep as this can obstruct their breathing or make them overheat. By putting them in the feet to foot position, you can help prevent this. Simply place them on their back with their feet at the bottom of their cot, then gently tuck their blanket securely under their arms so that it doesn’t slip over their head. As their feet are close to the end of their cot, this should stop them from wriggling down under their blanket.
What should be in my baby’s cot?
The Lullaby Trust advise that a clear cot is a safer cot. You probably received some beautiful toys for your little one at your baby shower or when they were born, but it’s important that these aren't in their cot when they sleep as (along with bumpers, pillows and loose bedding) this can increase the risk of SIDS and other accidents.
- Should be firm and flat.
- A waterproof cover keeps it clean and dry.
- Make sure it fits the cot/Moses basket properly.
- If it’s second hand, make sure it was previously protected by a waterproof cover and has no rips or tears.
- Use firmly tucked in sheets or blankets but don’t bring them above shoulder height.
- Or use a baby sleeping bag.
- Avoid using pillows. They’ve been found to increases the risk of SIDS by up to 2.5 times.
- Avoid bedding that is soft or bulky – keep it simple.
If you choose to swaddle, it may help your baby to sleep as it gives them a feeling of security, but it’s important to follow the guidelines on how to swaddle them and how long to do it for.
- Use thin materials.
- Always put them to sleep on their back.
- Make sure it’s not too tight or above the shoulders.
- Babies will start trying to roll from about 2 months. Whenever your baby starts to roll over, you should stop swaddling.
- Monitor your baby to make sure they don’t roll over while swaddled.
- Always check their temperature – swaddling can cause them to overheat.
- Baby Centre provides a step-by-step guide with images on how to swaddle your baby.
What should the temperature be?
It makes sense that you might want to turn the heating on and wrap your little one up as much as possible to keep them safe and warm, but this could lead to them getting overheated, increasing the risk of SIDS. Each baby is different, so use your initiative; check them to see if they’re too hot and take this as a guide:
- Their room temperature should be 16-20°C (a room thermometer helps here).
- You should use lightweight bedding.
- Feel their tummy or back of their neck to check if they’re too hot.
- Don’t check their hands or feet as they will naturally be slightly cooler.
- They don’t need to wear hats indoors.
- If they are ill, they’ll need less, not more bedding.
Again, a Bluebell baby monitor could come in handy here, as it measures both room temperature and baby's body temperature, putting your mind at ease.
Please note: if your baby was born premature, it’s especially important to follow safe sleep guidelines, to monitor their temperature and not to bed share with them as they are at a higher risk for SIDS.
We hope this has helped you to make some decisions on where and how your baby should sleep. It may sound scary, but once you get into consistent sleep routines, it will give you peace of mind knowing that your little one is safe and comfortable.
For more details, a phone number for support and advice, or even to donate to the cause, visit thelullabytrust.org.uk.
And let us know in the comments below if you have any questions about your safe baby sleep environments!