Parents often learn the safety recommendations for babies sleeping in cots, but very few are educated about other sleep environments.
There are principles of safety that matter whether your baby is in the cot, in a car seat, or in your arms. Babies die of SIDS in all sorts of situations, but as our understanding of SIDS increases, we now know that there are a number of risk factors for SIDS, and the majority of the time at least one of these risk factors has preceded a SIDS death. Here are some principles to keep in mind no matter where you and your baby are when it is sleep time.
- Babies are nose breathers, no matter where they sleep their nose needs to be clear for breathing. This includes when wrapping, breastfeeding, or even cuddling your baby. If your babies nose is deep into your breast while feeding this indicates incorrect latch, check out our post ‘what Breastfeeding looks like’, or contact Bundle of Care for assistance with your latch. You should be able to run a finger between babies nose and your breast.
- Babies are not like adults; they actually are physically different, especially when it comes to their airway. If they fall asleep with their chin in their chest they cannot breath as effectively. Always remember no matter where they are that their head needs to be supported so that this doesn’t occur. Many bouncers and car seats come with newborn head support, ensure these are in place so that your babies head doesn’t roll forward.
- Keep baby clear of smoke. If you are a smoker your baby is at a higher risk of SIDS; always smoke away from your baby, outside is best. Change your shirt when you come back inside so that baby isn’t breathing in smoke from your shirt during cuddles.
- Put baby to sleep on their back and in their own separate sleep space. This usually refers to a cot, but a co-sleeper that fits in your bed, or a side-car cot achieves this same result. Bed-sharing can be done safely if you choose to do so without these separate sleep spaces, but safe principles must be adhered to.
- Baby should sleep near you. The message that baby should sleep in the parents room for the first 12 months does not seem to be reaching the masses all that well, many parents still choose to put their baby in a separate room overnight. SIDS recommendations are that baby sleeps in their parents room, it helps regulate babies breathing and has been shown to reduce SIDS risk. Even if you have a small bedroom, find space for a cot or bassinet.
- Breastfeed. While not all women can breastfeed, the majority can with the right support. It has been shown to be protective against SIDS. If you cannot breastfeed there are many things you can do to reduce SIDS risk apart from breastfeeding; cued feeding and frequent night waking appear to be what is protective. If you bottle feed, use the same principles of feeding that breastfeeding mothers use; demand feed, and attend to all of babies night time cues. Sleep training to reduce night wakings is not recommended in the first 6 months of life, if you are having trouble managing babies sleep, contact Bundle of Care for assistance with improving your sleep efficiency. (Frequent wakings are considered 2 hourly, a baby waking more often than this may indicate a feeding problem).
Once you have these principles in place you can relax about SIDS. The risk when recommendations are followed is actually very low, there is no reason to feel anxious about your babies safety. It is normal for women to feel a little anxious in the first few weeks after the birth of their baby, and this may lead them to check their baby often. If you feel however that your anxiety is lasting longer than this, or it is interfering with your daily life, it may be worth getting some assistance with your anxiety. Bundle of Care can visit you in your home to provide caring support, other avenues for support include:
- Your GP
- A counsellor or psychologist
- Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA)