When establishing your little one’s sleep habits, creating a safe resting environment is crucial. Not only will this help to protect them during the night, but knowing your baby is safe and comfortable should also help you sleep easier. Here are a few tips to help you create a safe sleeping environment for your child and establish safe sleeping practices early on.
Creating a safe space
You’ll need to set up a sturdy cot with a snug mattress and tightly fitted sheet. There should be no other items in the cot when your little one is sleeping; pillows, toys, or loose blankets or sheets are all hazards.
Red Nose Australia recommends sharing a room with your little one for the first 6-12 months of their life. Sharing a room has a protective effect to reduce the incidence of SUDI. As an extra bonus, this can make it easier to tend to your little one’s cries or hunger throughout the night.
Babies need to be put to sleep on their backs. It’s unlikely they will be able to roll over onto their tummy until around four months of age, but if they get themselves there, don't panic - as they get older and stronger they will be able to move safely in and out of other positions to get comfortable.
Dressing baby safely
Keep the room at a comfortable temperature, around 18-22°. Also, dressing your little one appropriately for bed will help regulate their temperature, so try to choose sleepwear that keeps them warm enough without needing a blanket.
Think of anything other than bedding in the cot as a no-go, which means no beanies on cold nights. Beanies could fall off and land next to the head, which could be dangerous. We also release heat through the head and face, so it’s best to leave the head uncovered for body temperature regulation overnight.
Onesies are a good option for night time, as the fabric won’t bunch up and you can be sure your little one’s core is covered.
Wrapping or swaddling your baby at night time can also help keep them warm and feeling secure. When wrapping, ensure no cloth will cover the baby’s chin, face, or head. Wrap tightly enough that it will not unravel, but not too tight across their chest or hips. Use a lightweight, breathable cloth or muslin wrap and check that they can still stretch their legs once wrapped up.
Be sure to stop restricting their arms as soon as they show any signs of rolling, during any time of the day or night. This usually happens at around 8 weeks old. Babies love to practice new skills at night, and you don't want their first successful roll to be while you are asleep and they can't use their hands to move their head into safe positions.
Sleeping bags are helpful in similar ways to wrapping, but be sure there is no way for baby to slip down into the sleeping bag, or have any part of it covering their head.
There are lots of steps to keep in mind when it comes to establishing safe sleeping practices, but creating a safe and comfortable environment will help both you and baby sleep better. If you’re unsure about any of the above, talk to your GP, nurses, or midwife about how to safely put your baby to bed.