Your newborn spends most of their day asleep; this is a critical time in their development as it allows their body to grow and their brain to process the constant stream of new information. However, there are many risks to newborn health associated with unsafe sleeping practices. To optimise your baby's health and safety, it's important to follow a few simple steps and guidelines.
SIDS and SUDI
Understanding of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) has come a long way over the years. We now understand many of the risk factors that contribute to early baby deaths – fortunately, there are several simple steps we can take to minimise these risks.
Sharing a room
The risk of SIDS and SUDI are decreased when your baby shares a room (not a bed) with you. Remember that this must be in a cot or bassinet that meets Australian safety standards.
Do not share a bed with your baby as this increases the risk of SIDS or SUDI. It is recommended that you continue to share a room with your baby for the first 6 to 12 months of their life.
Safe positioning of the cot
Your baby's cot should be placed out of direct sunlight, away from overhanging items such as blinds, cords, mirrors and pictures and away from any heater or electrical appliance.
Safe positioning in the cot
Always place your baby down with their feet towards the end of the cot. This is often referred to as the 'feet-to-foot' position.
Your baby's crib only needs a mattress which fits snug against the crib and a secure fitted sheet.
Things you should never keep in your baby's crib include:
- A pillow. Your little one won't need a pillow until around 2+ years of age. A pillow in a newborn's cot is a suffocation hazard.
- Toys. They are considered a hazard – save your baby's favourite soft toy for playtime, not nap time.
Dressing your baby for sleep
Always dress your little one with the temperature in mind. Overheating can be a cause of SUDI, but this can generally be avoided with the right clothing.
You may wish to swaddle your little one for sleep, or you may use an infant sleeping bag. Always ensure these products are up to regulation and that you are following safe swaddling practices. Wrapping your baby too tight could lead to hip dysplasia.
If your baby prefers bedclothes, a onesie is a great way to ensure their core will stay warm. Even on cold nights, never put your baby in their crib while wearing a beanie, as this is a hazard.
On hotter nights, your baby may be more comfortable in a singlet or a night-dress. Ensure there are no chords or buttons which could come loose and make sure fabric isn't too flowy or baggy, to avoid it bunching up and covering your little snoozer's face.
Your newborn can sleep for up to 17 hours of every 24. A reliable baby monitor is a great investment for peace of mind, though you may like to occasionally check on your baby while they rest to make sure they aren’t too hot or cold and are still lying on their back in a safe sleeping position.