Safer Sleep Week: 11 ways to make co-sleeping with a baby as safe as possible

The vast majority of new parents have slept with their baby, many of them in dangerous circumstances, new research shows.

A survey of more than 3,400 new parents by the charity Lullaby Trust for Safer Sleep Week (March 13-19) found that nine in ten new moms and dads sleep with their baby at some point, with more than 40% admitting that They fell asleep with their baby on a sofa or chair, which can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS, also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by up to 50 times.

Yet only four in ten of the parents have received advice from a healthcare professional on how to reduce the risk of SIDS when sleeping with their baby. That’s why The Lullaby Trust urges all parents to share information about co-sleeping to save babies’ lives.

“Unfortunately, about three babies die from SIDS a week,” says Kate Holmes, Head of Support and Information at the Lullaby Trust. “If all parents knew the advice for safer sleep, many lives could be saved.”

A recent National Child Mortality Database (NCMD) report on sudden and unexpected childhood deaths found that of the SIDS deaths recorded between April 2019 and March 2021, 98% of babies died when they thought they might were sleeping, and 52% of them were co-sleeping with an adult or older sibling. It was also found that at least 92% of co-sleeping deaths occurred under dangerous circumstances, such as:

The Lullaby Trust wants all new parents to know the safest way to sleep with a baby and offers this advice…

1. Keep adult pillows and bedding away from the baby

Items that could cover a baby’s head or cause them to overheat should be kept away from them, as the Lullaby Trust says a high proportion of babies lost to SIDS are found with loose bedding on their heads.

Holmes says a baby sleeping bag is a good idea as there’s no risk of it slipping over the head, stressing: “Adult bedding, including duvets and pillows, should be kept well away from the baby to reduce the risk of overheating or suffocation reduce .”

2. Do not bring other children or pets to the bed

This safety note is to allow space in the bed, Holmes explains. “There’s no risk of a baby being crushed or falling out of bed,” she says. “Small children can fidget and have no spatial awareness. So if you share a bed with your baby, it is advisable that other children sleep elsewhere.

3. Make sure the baby is not on the edge of the bed

Parents should be careful not to let their baby lie on the edge of the bed to prevent them from falling out, and Holmes warns, “Beware of gaps where the baby could potentially become trapped between the bed and the wall.”

4. Never leave the baby unattended in an adult bed“It’s important that there’s always an adult in bed,” advises Holmes. “Babies should not be left unattended in bed as even small babies could squirm and potentially fall.”

5. Sleep babies on their backs

According to Holmes, there is an increased risk of SIDS for babies who sleep on their stomachs. “We don’t know exactly what causes SIDS,” she explains, “but we think it’s related to arousal — babies tend to fall asleep when they’re on their stomachs or when they sleep on their sides, like that.” Research shows babies who sleep on their stomach or side have an increased risk of SIDS.”

6. Put your baby to sleep on a firm, flat mattress

“A firm, flat surface has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS,” says Holmes. “There’s no risk of babies sinking into a soft surface, which can mean they overheat and their heads can be covered so they can’t release heat from their heads when needed. It’s important for babies to be cooler rather than warmer.”

7. Never fall asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair

Babies’ risk of SIDS is 50 times higher when they sleep with an adult on a sofa or armchair, Holmes points out. They can also easily slip into a position where they are trapped and unable to breathe.

8. Don’t sleep with your baby after drinking alcohol

“It would not be wise to share a bed with a baby if someone has consumed alcohol in bed,” says Holmes. “It’s better for babies to sleep in their own room.”

9. Don’t sleep with your baby if someone smokes in bed

This advice applies not only to smoking in the bedroom, but also to whether someone is simply a smoker in bed. The Lullaby Trust says around 60% of SIDS cases could be avoided if the baby were exposed to smoke during or after pregnancy.

10. Do not sleep with premature or very light babies

If your baby was born prematurely (before 37 weeks gestation) or weighed less than 2.5 kg or 5½ lbs at birth, you shouldn’t sleep with him, says Holmes. “It’s advisable not to share a bed with these babies, as research has shown it’s dangerous,” she says.

11. Don’t sleep with a baby if someone in bed has been taking medication that makes them sleepy

Holmes warns that people who have been on medications that cause drowsiness may not have the same judgment and fall into a deeper sleep, which can affect their ability to care for the baby. Safer Sleep Week: 11 ways to make co-sleeping with a baby as safe as possible

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