Safer Sleep Week is The Lullaby Trust’s national awareness campaign targeting anyone looking after a young baby. It aims to raise awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and the proven advice on how parents can reduce the risk of it occurring.
We know that greater awareness of safer sleep leads to a decrease in the numbers of babies dying.
Tiredness is the greatest barrier for parents, to following safer sleep advice consistently. Expectations that babies should sleep through the night or for long periods of time can add to pressure on parents. They can be led to think that if their baby does not fit this pattern they are doing something wrong or need to alter their behaviour to encourage their baby to sleep for longer.
Tiny babies need a good safe place to fall asleep. The best way to keep babies safe when they’re sleeping is in a cot of their own. Many parents take babies to bed with them, especially in the first few months when they seem to wake up every five minutes! Sadly, some babies have been accidentally suffocated by their parents. It is not common, but it is especially dangerous if the person sleeping with the baby has been drinking alcohol, takes drugs, is extremely tired or smokes, or if the baby was born before 37 weeks or weighed less than 2.5 kg at birth. A cot for your baby means you can sleep soundly too, knowing that they are safe.
However some parents choose to share a bed or other sleep surface (also known as co-sleeping) with their babies. In order to keep babies safe in a co-sleeping environment:
- Keep pillows, sheets, blankets away from your baby or any other items that could obstruct your baby’s breathing or cause them to overheat.
- Avoid letting pets or other children in the bed
- Make sure baby won’t fall out of bed or get trapped between the mattress and the wall
- Do not co-sleep with your baby if you or your partner has been drinking, is a smoker, has been taking drugs or is extremely tired; these factors can put babies at an extremely high risk of SIDS when co-sleeping. One study found that the risk of SIDS when co-sleeping is six times higher in smokers than in non-smokers.
- Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby as this can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times.
Items such as cushioned sleeping pods, nests, baby hammocks, cot bumpers, pillows, duvets and anything that wedges or straps a baby in place can pose a risk to babies under 12 months. In addition to the risk of SIDS, there are other risks of accidental suffocation and asphyxiation associated with the places that babies sleep: Moses baskets, cots and slings for example.
The safest cot is a clear cot
Both CAPT and the Lullaby Trust advise against using cot bumpers and to keep cots and Moses baskets clear of any loose items such as pillows and duvets, soft toys or devices that are designed to keep the baby in one position. A high proportion of infants who die as a result of SIDS are found with their head covered by loose bedding.
Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress that is in good condition. Do not use products (such as wedges or straps) that will keep your baby in one sleeping position.
Ensure that nothing is overhanging or dangling into a cot such as cables, bath robe belts, or bag handles. Blind cords should always be secured, but it’s safer not to position a cot near a window that’s fitted with a cord-operated blind (read more about blind cords).
- You should always place your baby on their back to sleep and not on their front or side.
- Sleeping your baby on their back (known as the supine position) every night is one of the most protective actions you can take to ensure your baby is sleeping as safely as possible.
- There is substantial evidence from around the world to show that sleeping your baby on their back at the beginning of every sleep or nap (day and night) significantly reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Sadly, there have been cases of babies being smothered while they are being carried in soft slings. The simple safety advice for a bag-style sling is to make sure that:
- It is tight.
- You can always see your baby’s face by simply glancing down.
- You can kiss your baby’s head by tipping your head forward.
- Your baby should never be curled up so their chin is forced onto their chest, as this can restrict their breathing.
A very good rule of thumb for parents who use carriers is the TICKS mnemonic:
Tight, In view at all times,
Close enough to kiss,
Keep chin off the chest,
Parents of premature babies, twins, babies in fragile health and those with low weight should seek advice from their GP before using a soft sling.
Resources from CAPT for parents of babies
CAPT has a range of resources for parents of new-born and young babies which cover safe sleeping:
Babies top safety tips £9.25 (+P&P) for 50 copies
Essential safety messages on key domestic hazards for babies. An indispensible leaflet for all new parents.
I’m only a baby, but… £50 (+P&P) for 50 copies, £27.50 (+P&P) for 20 copies.
A perfect introduction for new parents on how to keep their baby safe, using pictures and simple words to make essential safety advice accessible to all.
Keep your baby safe £27.50 (+P&P) for 50 copies
One of CAPT’s bestselling publications, Keep your baby safe is a comprehensive guide to baby safety for expectant and new parents.