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6 tips for safe sleeping

Creating a safe sleeping environment for your baby.

Keeping babies safe when they are sleeping is something all parents think about. Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) is the term used to describe any incident that leads to a child’s unexpected death, which can include illnesses, sleep accidents, injuries, as well as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which is when a baby dies suddenly and without warning, and there’s no obvious explanation.
SIDS and Kids was founded to try and establish and create awareness about safe sleeping practices for babies, based on numerous studies that have been conducted over the years. Here are the six simple guidelines they suggest to create a safe sleeping space for your baby.

1. Sleep baby on the back, not on the tummy or side.

SIDS and Kids recommends that right from birth, babies should be put to sleep on their back, on a firm, flat surface (unless, of course, your baby has a medical condition that your doctor recommends another sleeping position for). It’s not known the exact reason tummy and side sleeping lead to more cases of SIDS, but one theory is that it can lead to throat obstructions, which can be a choking hazard if the baby regurgitates milk. There has been an 83% decline in Australia’s SIDS rate, which is mostly due to the fact that parents are now using the Safe Sleeping recommendation of placing babies to sleep on their back.

2. Sleep baby with head and face uncovered.

When your baby is placed to sleep, check that:

The baby’s feet are positioned at the bottom of the cot, so they can’t slip down under the bedding.
All bedding is tucked in securely, with no doonas, loose bedding, pillows or soft toys in the cot.
Head coverings including bonnets, beanies, hats and hooded clothing are removed before your baby is placed for sleep.

See the SIDS and Kids guidelines for safe baby bedding for more information.

3. Keep baby smoke-free before birth and after.

Try to not let anyone smoke near your baby. Cigarette smoke harms babies before birth and after. This risk is increased even if parents smoke outside, away from the baby. The reason for the link between smoking and SUDI is not entirely clear, but SIDS and Kids emphasise there is real evidence that smoking less will reduce the risk for your baby. For more information, see the SIDS and Kids information statement on smoking and your baby, or visit Quit Now for help quitting smoking.

4. Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day.

Things to look out for to make the sleeping environment safe include:

  • Never leave baby unattended on an adult bed, waterbed, beanbag or couch.
  • Avoid falling asleep with the baby on a couch, sofa or chair.
  • Keep the cot away from hanging cords (such as from blinds, curtains or mobiles), as well as heaters and electrical appliances.
  • Never use electric blankets, hot water bottles or wheat bags for babies.

5. Keep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult caregiver for the first 6-12 months.

SIDS and Kids recommends sleeping with a baby in a cot next to the parents’ bed for the first 6-12 months of a baby’s life. Placing a baby on their back and keeping them under supervision is equally important for night-time and daytime sleeps.

6. Breastfeed baby if possible.

Breast milk contains substances that reduce the risk of infection and improve central nervous system development in the first six months, when SIDS carries the strongest risk. See the SIDS and Kids statement on breastfeeding for more information.

For more information on safe sleeping for babies, visit www.sidsandkids.org/safe-sleeping

Head here for more articles about parenting and taking care of your baby in the early days.

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