Choosing the best sleeping option for your baby can be a tricky business that can cause a headache to many parents.
After all, babies tend to sleep an awful lot during early days. As such, you need to ensure they are comfortable and, most importantly, safe during their rest. Since sudden death infant syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death, still occurs today, it is a critical safety concern.
So, you should bear that in mind when deciding where your child will sleep. You can then focus on enjoying this precious time with your child.
Where Should My Newborn Baby Sleep?
Research shows that during the first six months of a baby’s life, the safest place for them to sleep is next to their parents’ bed in a cot. A baby cot should always be clear of any loose objects or bedding. The only safe sleep position for babies is on their back on a flat, firm surface. Babies should sleep in a smoke-free environment, and the room temperature should be within a range of 16-20°C.
1. Safe Sleep Advice
As soon as my older daughter was born, my midwife gave me some practical advice about keeping her safe at night.
Even though most of what she said was common sense, I still felt more confident and reassured after hearing it. The key points that we discussed are as follows;
- Babies should room-share with their parents for the first 6 months of their life. They should sleep in a separate bed by the side of their family’s bed. Research shows that such sleeping arrangements minimise the risk of cot death by 36 %. Furthermore, there are other benefits of room-sharing, such as;
- Firstly, babies generally feel safe and calm when they are close to their parents. Consequently, they cry a lot less and settle easier.
- Secondly, by having babies close, parents are more responsive to their needs. For example, parents can spot hunger cues quicker and react to them before the baby becomes distressed.
- Since the early 1990s, the official advice on the safest sleeping position for babies is their back. The Baby’s feet should be at the foot of the cot. Babies should never sleep on their tummy or side. Several studies have shown that this is the single most protective action you can take to significantly reduce the risk of cot death.
- They should sleep on a flat, firm mattress. Soft beds, bean bags and sagging mattresses are not suitable for babies.
- Any loose bedding or soft object in her crib should be removed from the baby bed.
- Babies should never be exposed to a smoky environment. The risk of SIDS is significantly increased if parents are smoking during pregnancy or after childbirth
- The safest room temperature for a baby to sleep is between 16-20°C. The risk of SIDS increases when a baby is too hot while they sleep.
By following these six simple steps, you can reduce the risk of your child dying from cot death.
2. Where Should My Baby Sleep?
There is a wide variety of nursery furniture available today. I remember feeling overwhelmed when choosing her bed.
All these different types and names for beds were confusing; crib, cot, bassinet, cradle – what are these? What are the differences between them?
My husband and I spend hours reading about baby sleep options to figure out which works best for us (and our small apartment!). We chose a bedside crib because it seemed the most convenient option for feeding at night. I could reach my baby without getting up. That was a winner to me!
Bellow, I put together a quick summary of baby sleeping furniture and outlined their main differences.
2.1. Moses basket & carrycot
These portable baby beds are designed for early days since your baby will outgrow them within four to six months. Some models have a weight limit, so larger babies may outgrow them sooner. These beds are very light, making them easy to move around the house. As they don’t have a fixed base, they should be placed directly on the floor. Carrycot can be fixed to the pram, allowing babies to lie flat while on the go.
2.2. Bassinet & cradle
These are also basket-like structures and are used for newborn babies until they are four months. What distinguishes them from Moses basket and carrycot are free-standing legs, whereas cradles can rock or glide.
2.3. Crib & cot
A crib is essentially a smaller version of a cot bed, suitable from newborn until 18 months to 3 years (depending on the model). Typically, they are used when the baby outgrows the bassinet. The only difference between a cot and a crib is that a cot is used in British English, and a crib is used in American English.
The cribs/cots are not as portable as Moses baskets, but they are bigger and stronger. Hence they can last longer.
They are a perfect interim sleep solution if you have limited space in your bedroom to accommodate a much larger cot bed.
2.4. Cot bed
A cot bed is a variation of a cot with additional features such as a teething rail, drawers under the bed, headboard and footboard. It has removable sides and an end panel so it can convert to a toddler bed. A cot bed is slightly larger than a regular cot but smaller than a single bed. They are suitable from birth to 5 years old.
2.5. A bedside cot/crib
A bedside cot/crib is a bassinet-style cot that can be joined to your bed. It offers the benefits of bed-sharing without the risks associated with it! One side of the bedside crib can be removed or dropped down, allowing you to easily access the little one without getting up. This is particularly handy during nights for feeding, or if you need to quickly pop the dummy back before the situation escalates! A bedside cot is usually suitable from birth to about six months or until the baby can sit up.
There you have it. Nursery furniture in a nutshell. Whichever you decide is the best option for your circumstances, you should always ensure the safety standards are met.
3. Other Baby Sleep Options
You may want to take your little one for a stroll, visit friends and family, or run errands outside. Given that babies sleep between 16-20 hours a day, chances are they will need to sleep outside their bed. Fortunately, there are a few options for letting your baby nap while you’re out and about.
3.1. Car seat
Most babies, including my daughters, love dozing in a car seat because it feels cosy and comfy. It might be tempting for parents of fussy sleepers to take them for a car ride just to get them to sleep.
However, such a practice is not approved by health professionals. Babies shouldn’t sleep in car seats for more than is necessary. Whilst travelling in a car seat is perfectly acceptable and safe for babies, its duration must be restricted. It shouldn’t last more than 2 hours at a time.
So once arrived at the destination baby should be transported to a travel cot or another appropriate place with a flat, firm surface.
3.2. Pram, stroller, buggy, pushchair
… you name it. If the infant can lie flat in it, then any type of baby travel system on wheels is suitable for her to nap.
It is not safe for babies to sleep in seated or in semi-reclined positions until they are around six months old or when they can start to sit comfortably.
3.3 Sling/ baby carrier
Babies love being held and in physical contact with their parents. Carrying a baby in a sling or soft baby carrier, also known as babywearing, is a great way to keep your little one close and for her to have a long and peaceful nap.
Using baby carriers might require some practice to ensure safe babywearing. For that reason, UK Sling Consortium came up with TICKS guidelines. TICKS stands for:
- Tight (keep your baby close to you)
- In view at all time (parent should always see baby’s face to ensure they can breathe easily)
- Close enough to kiss (you parent be able to kiss your baby’s head comfortably)
- Keep chin off the chest (to prevent obstruction of the airways)
- Supported back (the baby should sit upright with their back supported)
It is not limited to how long the infant may sleep in the carrier. Babywearing can be safe even during the deepest snooze if you follow TICKS rules and manufacturer instructions.
4. Where Should My Baby Sleep During Daytime Naps?
Babies love routine, consistency and predictability. So, there are no surprises here – babies should take their daytime naps in the same place they sleep at night and at the same time each day.
Both daytime naps and bedtime sleep are subject to the same safe sleep guidelines.
5. Where Shouldn’t My Baby Sleep?
Babies can sleep literally anywhere they feel comfortable and safe. Nevertheless, the place of their choice may not necessarily be suitable for sleeping. Furthermore, it may be dangerous for them to sleep there.
So, here’s where babies shouldn’t sleep.
5.1. Sofa, Armchair, Bean Bag
Sleeping with your little one in your arms on a sofa, armchair, or bean bag can be dangerous for her.
Simple as that.
Not only there is an increased chance for SIDS, but you could also accidentally drop, trap, or squash your baby during sleep.
Therefore, sleeping with your baby on a sofa or armchair should always be avoided.
5.2 Baby swing, hammock or bouncer
Although swings and bouncers aren’t designed for babies to sleep, the fact is babies often doze off in these types of equipment due to the soothing, repetitive movement.
However, babies shouldn’t be left unattended in bouncer or swing, let alone nap, due to the increased risk of SIDS. Things can go wrong in a variety of ways; the padding may obstruct their airways, or they may become tangled in the harness or rollover in the swing.
The bottom line is, any inclined baby product should only be used for leisure purposes. If your child falls asleep in one of these products, move them to their bed immediately.
5.3 Baby pod nest or sleep positioner
Even though baby pods or nests are specifically designed for infants to help them sleep, they do not conform to safe sleep recommendations. This clearly states that babies under 12 months should only sleep on a firm flat surface. Soft and cushioned products increase the risk of SIDS due to overheating or suffocation if babies roll to the front.
6. Is It Okay To Co-Sleep With My Baby?
As a general rule, sharing a bed with your infant is not recommended due to the high risk of SIDS.
Simply put, an adult bed is not designed to keep babies safe.
However, many parents admit they share a bed with their children. Often it is not intentional – an exhausted mother may doze off while nursing her little one at night.
I must admit, it has also happened to me. Even though we used a bedside crib, I did fall asleep while breastfeeding. The nursing pillow supported my baby while I dozed off, and thankfully, she did not slide out of it…
There are several reasons why parents decide to co-sleep with their little ones. In some cultures, it is a tradition for families to share a bed. Others may find it convenient during night feedings or useful for bonding or caring for the infant during illness.
Regardless of whether you intend to co-sleep with your child or not, it is wise to make your bed as safe as possible (just in case you happen to fall asleep with your little one).
So, in addition to the safe sleep guide, you should also consider the following advice;
- Any loose bedding, such as pillows, sheets or blankets, should be kept away from the baby as it could lead to overheating or breathing problems.
- Other children or pets should stay away from the bad.
- You should ensure that the baby does not fall out of bed or get stuck between the wall and the mattress.
- You should never share a bed with your baby if you’ve consumed alcohol, drugs, or smoked cigarettes, or if your baby is underweight (below 2.5kg) or premature.
Finally, just so you’re clear. Following the above guidance reduces the risk of SIDS, but does not eliminate it. So please bear that in mind.
You can find more information on safe sleep for babies in the following sources:
Final Few Lines
Nowadays, there are many baby sleep products available to new parents. They range from Moses baskets, bassinets, cribs and cot beds. They come in different shapes and sizes, not to mention price tags, to meet any need.
To ensure the safety of your little one during sleep, you should remember these crucial rules:
For the first six months of their life, babies should sleep in their parents’ bedrooms in a crib or cot separate from their parents. They should be placed on a firm, flat mattress on their back.
So, no matter what option you choose, make sure that it meets safety standards. And always follow the manufacturer instruction for safe usage of the baby product.