By Angela Wilson
Certified child sleep consultant, MA Natural Sciences Cambridge University and co-founder of Baby Smiles Club
Sleeping safely is hugely important to us at Baby Smiles Club. And we know parents spend can spend hours agonising over where and how their baby should be sleeping. What cot should I buy? Should I get them a sleeping pod? What should they be wearing? What about the room temperature? What about those swings and rockers that some other parents are using? And so on…..
Because sleeping safely is so important to us, our Baby Sleep Program has a whole chapter and video called 'Sleep Environment'. In it, we explain how to create a safe and cosy sleeping environment for your baby. Creating such an environment helps to keep a baby safe whilst sleeping, and helps them sleep better too.
One of the key takeaways from our Baby Sleep Program is this:
The safest way for a baby to sleep is on their back in their own cot in your bedroom. The mattress should be firm, flat and well-fitting, and there should be no objects in the cot. Your baby should be dressed appropriately for the room temperature.
Why is it so important for a baby to sleep safely?
A safe sleep environment is really important for a baby because it minimises the risk of injury and sleep-related infant death, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). If you haven’t heard of SIDS, it’s also known as cot death.
We know SIDS isn’t a nice topic, but the consequences are devastating – so it’s good for you to know what it is and what you can do to minimise the risks.
What is SIDS?
SIDS is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an otherwise apparently healthy baby. It’s one of the most common causes of death in babies. It usually occurs when a baby is asleep, though it can happen when a baby is awake. It can occur at any time from birth.
The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, but it’s believed to be caused by a combination of factors. Having a safe sleeping environment can minimise the risk of SIDS.
A baby should be sleeping on their back
One part of sleeping safely is that a baby should be sleeping on their back. When a baby is placed for sleeping, whether it’s at bedtime or a daytime nap, it’s important that they are put on their back, and not on their stomach or side. Doing so reduces the risk of SIDS.
Following an epidemic of cot deaths in the 1970s and 80s (where 1 in 250 babies were dying of SIDS in some of the world’s richest countries), research was carried out in various countries across the world (including New Zealand, Sweden and the UK). The research showed that placing babies to sleep on their backs (rather than their stomachs) significantly lowered the risk of SIDS.
As a consequence, various back-sleeping campaigns were initiated across the globe. This included the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign launched in the UK in 1991. Figures from the Lullaby Trust in the UK show that the rate of SIDS has reduced by 82% since the launch of the campaign.
You can find out more about how to create a safe and cosy sleeping environment for your baby in our Baby Sleep Program. It's an online program with ebook and videos, founded on the most up-to-date science about how babies sleep. It's created with kindness and empathy, and designed to foster and strengthen the parent-child bond.