Newborn sleep is one of those topics where everyone’s an expert, yet no two people have the same opinion. Even amongst the professionals (midwives, paediatricians, doulas, and lactation consultants) parents will commonly receive advice in the first month that’s contradictory and often not evidence based.

Swaddle the baby. Don’t swaddle the baby. Only swaddle the baby with his hands out. Give baby a dummy to prevent SIDS. Don’t give baby a dummy, he won’t breastfeed.

No wonder new parents end up confused, stressed out and overwhelmed!

The basics for safe sleep are exactly that – basic. It’s a good thing really, because when you’re tired, unshowered and have already checked twenty times today that your newborn is still breathing, we dont want to make things too complicated.

So let’s break it down, shall we?

1. Sleep baby on the back from birth.

We’ve known for a long time that tummy sleeping increases the risk of SIDS. It’s easy for baby to roll onto their tummy from a side-lying position, so we want to avoid that where we can. Babies are also less likely to pull a Bon Scott and choke on their own vomit when laid on their backs. Some babies carry on like you’re poking them with hot sticks when you put them on their back. This definitely complicates things but if your baby is of the hot sticks persuasion, there are other options (for example, wearing baby in a cloth sling for day sleeps) that you can try.

2. Sleep baby with head and face uncovered.

No hats when baby is in bed – they can pull them over their face, and that’s not a good look when they can’t push them back off. If baby is swaddled, make sure the swaddling is level with their shoulders and doesn’t come up around the back of their head. If baby is in a cot, sleep them with their feet near the bottom so they can’t slide down under the blankets (which should be tucked in securely).

3. Keep baby in a smoke free environment before and after birth.

I’m pretty sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know here, but smoking increases the risk of SIDS significantly. Try to quit while you’re pregnant, but if you can’t (or your partner can’t) then smoke outside, wash hands, and change your clothes frequently. And pretty please, don’t smoke in the car. Even when your baby isn’t in it.

4. Provide a safe sleeping environment, night and day.

Parents are usually meticulous about ensuring baby’s night time sleep space is SIDS safe, but they often feel more relaxed about baby’s day sleep spaces because they’re awake themselves. The sad fact is that babies succumb to SIDS in the middle of day, just as at night so it’s important to make sure every space baby sleeps in is safe. This is especially true if you tend to have your newborn catching zzzs all over the house in the first month or two, as many new parents do. This is fine, but make sure baby’s in a safe basket or on you – not on a waterbed, beanbag, cushion, couch or lying between pillows to stop them falling off one of the above.

5. Sleep baby in a safe sleeping space in the same room as a parent or caregiver for the first 6-12 months.

We know now that babies who sleep alone are at a higher risk for SIDS – it’s thought that having other adults in the room helps the newborn regulate their breathing. If you choose to co-sleep (ie. have baby in bed with you) make sure you’re aware of when this isn’t recommended. If you or your partner smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs before bedtime (including prescription medication that causes either of you to sleep heavily), are tired to the point of seeing double and rambling incoherently at your own reflection, or like to sleep with the dog…it’s not a great idea to bed share.

6. Breastfeed if you can.

Breastfed babies are at decreased risk for SIDS. This is probably due to a combination of factors. The protective immune qualities of breastmilk, and the more frequent waking associated with breastfeeding (which is a protective mechanism for newborns) are both thought to help reduce the risk for these babies.

If breastfeeding didn’t work out for you, don’t stress. That’s why it says “if you can”.

Source Sids and Kids


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