A new baby is the greatest gift imaginable. They bring joy and happiness (not to mention sleepless nights!) to parents, but with this gift comes added pressure.
New mums and dads will have many questions buzzing around their heads.
Things like where is the safest place for baby to sleep? Should anything be in the cot with baby? What are the risks that babies face when they are asleep?
This blog looks at some of those issues and offers The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ top 5 tips to keep your sleeping baby safe.
1. Room temperature
Many parents may be aware that a baby’s room temperature should be regulated at between 16°C and 20°C as one of the key risks they face when going to sleep is “thermal stress”, or overheating.
Having a basic room thermometer can often help in monitoring this as it is not always obvious to an adult what temperature a baby is comfortable at.
Thermal stress is thought to be one of the factors that can contribute towards Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) with “at risk” babies less able to adapt to changes in temperature.
Keeping a baby on their back with only suitable bedding in the cot is therefore recommended by many charities to avoid overheating. Keeping a baby’s head uncovered is also important as the head helps with temperature regulation.
2. Avoid soft toys and soft bedding in a cot
No soft toys or other products which cocoon your baby in any way are needed in a cot – these can, in fact, cause a hazard.
Snuggly and soft are often words used when marketing children’s bedding, but remember babies need ample oxygen all around them for their brains to develop.
Soft pliable bedding can mould around a baby’s face but they won’t know how to remove the bedding for themselves from positions of danger.
Sleeveless sleep sacks are a good choice as they keep a baby warm without the risk of them slipping underneath blankets in the cot.
If using blankets, make the cot up in the feet to foot position to help minimise the risk of your baby being able to slip under the covers.
3. Don’t clutter with extra products
Before adding extra products to a cot, which in themselves can add risk, it is worth remembering that the cot is the only piece of baby equipment designed for babies to be left in unsupervised (as they sleep).
All other equipment, like buggies and high chairs, are used under parental supervision. As such, modern cots that comply with the latest safety standards are designed to be as safe for babies as possible.
There are a lot of products on the market that purport to protect baby when in the cot. Cot bumpers, for example, are soft materials that are designed to sit inside the cot and are often attached to the cot bars with ribbons in order to protect babies from injuring themselves against cot bars. They are also marketed as being useful in preventing babies from getting their limbs stuck between bars.
However, cot bumpers may pose other hazards in several ways. The ribbon can pose a strangulation hazard and this has been linked to at least one death in the UK.
The bumper itself can be used as a foothold by more agile children to escape the cot, leading to a risk of falling. Also, the material may restrict the amount of oxygen that the child intakes – a process known as “rebreathing”.
The most extreme risk is that cot bumpers could pose a suffocation hazard if a baby rolls over with their face against the cot bumper and is then unable to move.
A Nap Nanny that has been linked to deaths in America.
Another product raising concerns in America is Nap Nanny, which has, sadly, been linked to the deaths of six babies. These products are used to place the baby in a reclined position to sleep and can also be used to “strap” the baby into their crib or on the floor, ensuring that they do not move around when they sleep.
Some babies have suffocated on the inside of the Nap Nanny while others have partly fallen or hung over the side and been trapped between the product and cot bumpers, leading to suffocation in at least one case.
There is also controversy surrounding sleep positioners – foam wedges that manufacturers claim are suitable for babies to sleep in and aim to keep baby in one fixed position.
Be aware that if a baby manages to turn their body or slip down, then these products also present suffocation, thermal heating and re-breathing risks. Baby’s face can get stuck against the foam and there have been many baby deaths attributed to these products.
4. Look out for packaging
Be aware of the packaging that these products arrive in.
I have seen some that are supplied in drawstring bags and these present a strangulation risk to a baby. This adds a hazard immediately into the home over and above the product inside the bag.
Nappy sacks – plastic bags to place dirty nappies in – are also a concern.
RoSPA is aware of at least 14 babies in England and Wales that have suffocated or choked to death on this product.
Babies naturally grasp anything and put it in their mouths, so always keep nappy sacks, other plastic bags and wrapping away from babies and buy them on a roll if possible.
5. Be aware of blind cords
Finally, RoSPA is aware of at least 28 child deaths caused by blind cords and most of these accidental deaths occur in toddlers aged between 16-months and 36-months-old, so it is something to bear in mind as your baby starts growing.
The main issue that as a toddler start to get mobile their head still weigh proportionately more than their body, compared to adults, and their muscular control is not yet fully developed, which makes them more prone to be unable to free themselves if they become entangled in a cord around their neck.
RoSPA advice is to:
- move beds, cots, highchairs and playpens away from windows where there are cords and chains
- make sure all blind cords are always secured out of reach of babies and young children
- move furniture that children can climb up on away from windows that have cords and chains.
I hope these tips can help you make informed decisions and I’d also recommend visiting The Lullaby Trust website for more detailed safe sleeping advice.
Being a parent is not easy but there is help and guidance all along the way. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and to ENJOY this time as they will be 15-years-old before you know it!
Philip LeShirley, RoSPA Product Safety Adviser