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Safe Sleep for Babies

Sleep is a really important for your baby’s growth and development. It takes a while to understand a new baby's sleep pattern and this is different for all babies. Establishing sleep patterns in the first few months will help your baby settle and self soothe.

Getting into sleep routines can be difficult when you have a new baby or are tired yourself. Sometimes the easiest options about where and how your baby falls asleep can put them at risk.

By remembering some simple guidelines, there are things you can do to keep your baby safe while they are sleeping. This will reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death.

Safer Sleep for babies:

  • Put babies on their back to sleep
  • Make sure babies have a clear, flat space to sleep in
  • Keep them smoke free day and night.
  • All babies should sleep on their back.

    • Unless your baby is being cared for on a neonatal unit with special monitoring your baby should sleep on their back.
    • Babies should not sleep on their side or tummy.
    • If your baby falls asleep in a different position you should move them on to their back immediately – even if it wakes them up.

    Friends and family may tell you they put their baby to sleep in different position. We now know for sure this is not safe and you should not do it unless advised by a specialist doctor.

  • Babies should sleep in a clear, flat space.

    • Your baby should sleep in a cot / crib or pram designed for a baby.
    • It should have a firm, close fitting mattress (read more *here*).
    • Your baby’s feet should touch the ‘foot ’(bottom) of the cot. This will stop them wriggling under covers.
    • Bedding should only come up to their armpits (read more *here*).
    • Cots should not have pillows, bumpers, toys or loose bedding (read more *here*).
    • It is safest for your baby to sleep in the same room as you for the first six months – both day and night. This should always be in a Moses basket / cot or pram (read more *here*).
    • The room temperature should be 16-20 degrees centigrade so your baby does not get too hot (read more *here*).
    • Babies should not sleep for longer than 2 hours in a car seat. Make regular stops for your baby to have time out of their car seat (read more *here*).

    Never let your baby fall asleep on their own, or with you on a sofa or chair. This increases the chance of SIDS.

    This can happen accidentally when you are very tired – read more *here* on how to plan ahead so that you have somewhere close by to put your baby down to sleep safely.

  • Babies should live in a smoke free environment. This means their parents and carers do not smoke and they are not around others who are smoking or in rooms where people have smoked.

    • If you would like help to stop smoking you can get in touch with Smokefree Norfolk for support, or call Just One Norfolk to speak to a health professional.
    • Until you quit, always smoke outside at a distance from your baby. Wash your hands and change outer clothes before going back to your baby (read more *here*).
    • Make sure friends and family know your ‘smoke free’ rules. This is important for your baby’s health and safety.
    • If you and / or your partner smoke you should never share a bed with your baby. This is because SIDS is 10 times more likely with a smoking parent.

    Experts say that if all expectant parents were able to stop smoking and continued not to smoke after the baby was born, the rate of SIDS could be halved.

  • Ideally babies should always sleep in their own cot, crib or pram. Some families will choose to co-sleep with their babies. Co-sleeping is sharing a bed with a baby as they sleep.

    If you choose to co-sleep, you can make it safer by;

    • Not sleeping on a sofa or armchair with your baby
    • Making sure your baby is sleeping in a clear space beside you
    • Using a baby sleeping bag instead of loose bedding, like pillows, sheets or blankets
    • Not letting pets or other children sleep in the bed
    • Making sure your baby won't fall out or get trapped between the mattress and a wall.

    You should never co-sleep if;

    • You or your partner smokes
    • You or your partner has drunk alcohol or taken drugs
    • You or your partner has taken prescribed medication that might make you feel drowsy
    • You are extremely tired
    • Your baby was premature (born at 37 weeks or earlier) or your baby had a low birth rate (5 1/2 pounds or less). Read more *here*.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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