Overriding the safe sleeping overwhelm



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Updated on Mar 28, 2024 · 3 mins read
Overriding the safe sleeping overwhelm

When you have a baby, you will find yourself in endless conversations talking about your baby’s sleep. Now, everyone has an opinion when it comes to doing things the ‘right’ way. You will hear from mums who co-sleep, mums who are totally against this ‘unsafe’ practice and others who have their little one in a separate room trying to implement a ‘routine’ from an early stage.

One thing you can be sure of is that babies will sleep A LOT in the early months. This may be in short stints for some, but, overall, they will spend a lot of time in the chosen sleeping environment. With this is mind, it’s important to ensure that whatever that sleeping environment is, it is SAFE.

Here is what you need to know about safe sleeping:

What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is when no cause of death can be determined for a baby under the age of 1 year old. This is often when a baby is apparently well, but has died suddenly and all recognisable causes of infant death have been ruled out. SIDS usually happens after a period of sleep, whether that be during the day or night. Babies who die of SIDS are thought to have problems in the way they respond to environmental stresses, and how they regulate their heart rate, breathing and temperature.

The risk of SIDS is significantly increased when:

  • babies are less than 3 months of age
  • babies are born preterm
  • the baby shares the sleep surface with a smoker
  • the parent is under the influence of alcohol
  • the parent is overly tired, and therefore difficult to wake
  • the parent is obese
  • there is an adult duvet or pillows that may suffocate the baby
  • the baby can fall out of bed and become trapped between the wall and bed frame, or be rolled onto
  • the baby is placed down for sleep on a surface that is not their cot, unsupervised

Is co-sleeping safe?

There is much debate about this, as there are many benefits to co-sleeping with your baby. Red Nose states that sharing the bed with your baby can increase the risk of SIDS, although this is generally due to the fact that it opens up the opportunity for ‘accidents’ to occur (i.e. rolling on top of your baby when in a deep sleep).

They suggest that the safest place to sleep your baby is in their own sleeping place, in the same room as an adult caregiver. It is recommended that a baby sleeps in a cot next to the parent’s bed for the first 6-12 months of their life.

Here are a few shared sleep surfaces that are considered high risk for SIDS:

  • Sofa sharing
  • Sleeping baby on the parent’s chest
  • Adult sleep environments

How to keep your baby safe during sleep

Although the cause of SIDS is not fully understood, you can certainly reduce the risk. Here are some things to consider when putting your baby to sleep:

  • Place your baby on their back to sleep, in a cot
  • Keep your baby in the room with you for the first 6-12 months
  • Do not smoke when your baby is present
  • Avoid sharing the same sleeping surface as your baby when they are under 4 months of age
  • Avoid falling asleep with your baby on a sofa or an armchair
  • Do not let your baby get too hot
  • Keep your baby’s head uncovered, their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders

Parents often raise concerns about vomiting when their baby is sleeping on its back. Healthy babies sleeping on their back are actually less likely to choke on vomit than tummy-sleeping infants. The only time babies shouldn’t sleep on their back is when they have rare medical conditions which might mean they have to sleep on their side or on their tummy. This should only be done when advised by a medical professional.

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