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Common questions about safe sleeping

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Common safe sleeping questions

Where should my baby sleep?

The best place for your baby to sleep is right beside your bed at night, and in the same room as you during the day. Some safe places for your baby to sleep in are:

  • Cot
  • Co-sleeper cot - With a co-sleeper cot, your baby is close enough to keep an eye on and in their own safe place.
  • Moses basket
  • Baby Box - Scotland’s Baby Box is a safe and comfortable place for your baby to sleep.

For your baby’s safety, it’s best that they are just covered with a cellular/light blanket. You can just use a sheet if it’s warm enough in the room. Babies have a knack of falling asleep wherever they happen to be - whether it’s the play mat, car seat or even their bouncy chair. But you can gently move your wee one to the security of their cot, Moses basket or Baby Box and they’ll soon happily doze off again. The safest thing for your baby when they are sleeping is lying flat on their back, on a firm surface.

Place your Moses basket or Baby Box on the floor, or the inside of the cot, so that there’s no risk of it falling or toppling over. Your little one can sleep in their Moses basket or Baby Box until they’re big enough to roll themselves over, or pull themselves up without your help. If you need to pick up or move the Baby Box, take your wee one out first.

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What if I want to bed-share with my baby?

There are risks with bed sharing and many new parents think they’ll never bring their baby into bed with them. However research shows that many parents do, and for all kinds of reasons. By far the most common reason is to breastfeed during the night. Breastfed babies need to feed frequently because breast milk is easily digested and so they need to be fed night and day.

Some parents bed-share as it’s easier to respond to their wee one,. If their baby is poorly, parents may also want to bed-share so they can keep a close eye on their little one. Bed-sharing is also a normal cultural practice for many families from around the world. Although there are positives to bed-sharing, when it happens accidentally, without thought for babies’ safety, it can be very dangerous.

It’s never safe to bed-share if you smoked during pregnancy or if you or your partner smoke, and it’s extremely dangerous if you or your partner have consumed any alcohol or legal or illegal drugs such as methadone or medicines that cause drowsiness. It is also never safe to bed-share if your wee one was or is premature or weighed less than 2.5kg at birth.

Because adult beds aren’t designed for babies, you need to be extra careful that nothing gets in the way of them having a safe sleep. So if you do decide to bed-share, make sure you remove any pillows or heavy bedding so they don’t get tangled or trapped and keep your baby away from any gaps between the bed and the wall and other furniture.

Before you bed-share, double check that you’re happy that it’s safe for your baby. You might want to consider a three-sided ‘bedside’, or ‘side-car’ crib that attaches to your bed. This could be an option if you want to be close to your baby, but you have concerns about bed-sharing safety.

It’s important that all parents are informed about bed-sharing and think about how to manage their wee one’s night-time care, including talking about it with their partner. So if you have any questions, why not chat to your midwife or health visitor? It’s never too early to start thinking about it.  And they’ll be able to tell you what to consider before bed-sharing, and how to do it more safely. Or if you want to do your own reading, you’ll find lots of helpful information about caring for your baby at night here and also here.

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I've heard it's dangerous to sleep with my baby on the sofa or a chair - but why?

Sometimes people fall asleep with their babies without meaning to. This can be very dangerous, especially if it happens on a couch, sofa or armchair, or after consuming alcohol or drugs.

Sofas and armchairs are often covered in cushions and even blankets. The danger in this kind of sleeping environment is that your baby can get wedged between cushions and the sofa arms and might not be able to breathe. There is also an increased risk as babies are more likely to be sleeping on their tummy, on their parent’s chest.

The safest way for your wee one to sleep is on their back, on a firm, flat, clear surface - close to you at all times during the day and night. For night time this might be a cot, Baby Box, or moses basket by the side of your bed. That way you’ll be able to hear your baby and respond to their needs before they start crying or become distressed, and they’ll be close enough for you to comfort them.

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What temperature should the room be where my baby sleeps?

Around 18 degrees C is a good guide for keeping your baby comfortable. The bath and room thermometer in your Baby Box will help you to monitor this.

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What should my baby wear?

If your baby just wears a vest and a sleep suit, it’s a lot easier for you to regulate their temperature with blankets. There’s no need to put anything on your baby’s head. And during summer, they probably won’t need a vest unless it’s chilly.

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What can I do if my baby keeps kicking off their blanket?

Some babies are wee wrigglers - and as they get a bit older and start kicking, they can pedal away with their legs or arms until they’re free from their blanket. One solution is a baby sleep bag, which is specially designed for wriggly little bodies.

Using a sleep bag rather than a light cover helps to prevent your baby getting their head covered with blankets and sheets during sleep. All you need to do is make sure it fits safely around your baby’s neck and shoulders, so that their head cannot slip down inside the bag. Choose a sleeveless sleep bag - without a hood. Once your baby is in their vest and all-in-one babysuit, no other blankets will be needed.

Make sure the sleep bag is both the right size for your baby and the right thickness for the time of year to avoid chills, or overheating. Remember, overheating can increase your baby's risk of cot death. It’s always a good idea to speak to your health visitor or midwife about using a sleep bag safely. Remember to remove the sleep bag if you bring your baby into bed.

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How can I reduce the risk of cot death?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or cot death is rare but does still happen. No sleep environment is 100% risk-free, however you can reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS by keeping them away from cigarette smoke (even near clothes or rooms where smoke can linger), making sure your wee one only sleeps on their back and on a firm, flat, clear surface such as their cot, moses basket or Baby Box, and by monitoring their body and room temperature. You should make sure their feet are at the end of their bed, with the blankets tucked under their arms - securely tucked in under the mattress, so there’s nothing for your baby to get tangled in. Breastfeeding your baby also reduces their risk of SIDS.

It is never safe for you or your partner to fall asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair. Try not to put yourself in a position where this might happen.

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What if I have twins?

If you have twins, they can each get their own Baby Box. It’s important that babies don’t sleep together in one Baby Box - however, twins can sleep together in a cot.

Many parents find that sleeping their babies in the same cot - or ‘co-bedding’ - can work really well, at least for the first few weeks or months. Research shows that twin babies who sleep in the same cot don’t wake up more often - in fact, their sleeping patterns become more closely matched. So if you decide to co-bed your twins, you should find they won’t disturb each other.

Sadly, all parents need to be aware that some babies die suddenly and unexpectedly during their sleep for no explainable reason. This is called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Parents of twins and multiple birth babies need to be particularly vigilant, as they are more likely to be born premature or have a low birth weight, and are therefore at a higher risk of SIDS.

While there is still a lot to learn about why SIDS occurs  it is known that placing a baby to sleep on their back reduces the risks, while exposing a baby to cigarette smoke or overheating increases the risk. Keep in mind that it is rare, so don’t let your concerns stop you enjoying the first months with your little ones. And there are lots of simple steps you can take to reduce the risks as much as possible.

To support you, and help you co-bed your twins safely, Tamba (Twins and Multiple Births Association) provide lots of useful information, advice and guidance - including a factsheet and video clips you can watch here.

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What room should they sleep in?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that your baby should be near you (in the same room) while they’re sleeping - both day and night - and in a room where no one smokes. A dark and quiet room at night, and a lighter room with normal sound levels during the day, will help them get into a routine of sleeping.

For more information, including further sleep, dummy and swaddling advice and more visit Ready Steady Baby and Scottish Cot Death Trust and The Infant Sleep Information Source.

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What do I need to know about safe sleep in my Baby Box?

The Baby Box is a safe and comfortable place for your baby to sleep. Here are a few important points to help you:

  • Place the Baby Box on the floor, or the inside of the cot, so that there’s no danger of the box falling from a height.
  • Place the Baby Box securely inside the lid.
  • Keep the box dry and wipe any moisture off as soon as you see it.
  • If the box looks in any way damaged, don't place your baby to sleep in it.
  • Keep the box away from direct heat sources, and if there is underfloor heating, make sure it does not sit on top of a hot spot on the floor.
  • Never place the box on a raised surface, such as a table or sofa, when your baby is in it.
  • Always keep the box flat, and don’t place anything underneath it to tilt it. Make sure it’s stable at all times.
  • Remember, your Baby Box even comes with its own mattress which fits perfectly. Just remember to only use the mattress provided.
  • The Baby Box also provides you with a transportable bed if you’re visiting friends or relatives. (Just make sure you take baby out first, before moving the box!)  Find out more here.
  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep, with their feet at the end of the box.
  • Tuck the covers securely under your baby’s arms and under the mattress so the blankets don’t slip over their head. A folded blanket is the same as two blankets.
  • Make sure there is nothing else in the box such as soft toys, pillows, duvets or cot bumpers.
  • Keep your baby smoke-free by not smoking near them, or allowing them to be in a room where other people are smoking or have smoked.
  • Your baby can sleep in the Baby Box until they are big enough to roll themselves over or pull themselves up.

For more information visit the Baby Box section.

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More information

For more information on how to make sure your baby is sleeping safely, visit the Ready Steady Baby website. You can also speak to your midwife or health visitor

This article was created as part of 

Last updated: 8 Nov, 2018


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