If there was one thing that I obsessed about as a new mum it was sleep. Both Millie's sleep and in turn mine. I googled, and googled almost every day on ways that I could help to create an environment that encouraged her to sleep for longer than 30 minutes at a time in those first few days and weeks. I was so used to my 8 hours sleep and suddenly I felt like I was never asleep.
After loosing Jack, my biggest anxiety came from ensuring Millie would be safe while she slept. I obsessed with her breathing, and on the nights she managed a 4 hour stint, I woke every 20 minutes to make sure she was still alive. I spent the first year of her life anxious about almost everything. Now when I look back I realise how much I missed. My anxiety and obsessive need to get the sleep thing right, meant I didn't enjoy those midnight snuggles and the moments she would fall asleep in my arms. 7 years on I wish I had taken a moment to fully enjoy them. So I have put together a list of the best tips and tricks we found for Safe Sleep. Hopefully they help you to enjoy those moments that I missed.
As a parent you’ll want to do your own research and speak to your health practitioner about any sleep concerns you have. But this will hopefully give you a good place to start to be sure your little one is sleeping safely.
Use A Flat Surface
The first thing to think about is the type of sleep space you’ll want for your baby, even the littlest of babies can get heavy over time. Keep in mind when choosing what type of sleep space your little one will use, it needs to be flat. Even babies with reflux should sleep on a flat surface. It is not recommended to let babies sleep in anything that does not support them probably, like a swing, bouncer or their car seat (unless properly installed in the car). This is due to the potential for positional asphyxiation which young baby’s are at a higher risk for. These baby items are better used during wake time, when the baby will be supervised! But for sleeping, you’ll want to have a surface that is flat and designed for infant sleep. Some good options are an infant cot, bassinet, or mini crib.
A Firm Mattress is Best
Even though adults may prefer to sleep on an extra plush mattress, the safest mattress for your baby will be a firm mattress. Having a mattress that is firm, helps reduce the risk of suffocation and offers the best support for their still developing skeletal structures.
“Extras” Are Not Needed
I think it is built into most mums to decorate their babies' sleep space with those special blankets or stuffed animals and cot bumpers, that are given or brought leading up to the arrival of your baby. But it is recommended by SIDS AUSTRALIA that babies sleep by themselves in a cot/ bassinet with no loose covers and nothing added to the sleep space. We always recommend using a full elastic casing for your fitted sheets so that they do not slide or slip.
Lay Baby on their Back
Always, lay your baby on their back when you are putting them in their sleep space. You may find family members or friends have advice on this subject insisting it’s safe to lay them on their tummy because that’s how they did it. The current guidelines say that on their back is safest for the first year. Now as your baby gets older and learns to roll they may roll themselves to their belly and that’s ok! If they have good head control and can roll themselves there it is safe to leave them but you should still lay them on their back to start with.
Let's Talk Swaddles and Sleep Sacks
Now you are probably wondering how are you going to keep your baby warm?? Especially since you shouldn’t add blankets to the cot or bassinet !! A great safe alternative to loose covers would be swaddles and sleep sacks. Swaddling or Wrapping your baby needs to be done correctly for it to be safe. Millie was a winter baby, and in the first few weeks we wrapped her in 3 swaddles to keep her warm. Wrapping can help babies feel secure while also reducing their startle reflex that is often the cause of babies being unsettled during their rest time. It is recommended that once your baby is starting to show signs of rolling, approximately around three months, to ditch wrapping. This is when a sleep sack comes in handy! The sleep sack offers extra warmth and allows the baby the use of their arms while still limiting the suffocation risk of a traditional blanket.
Becoming Room Mates
Sharing your room with your baby for at least the first 6 to 12 months is recommended but is totally a personal decision. Before making this decision consider this information.
* First of all, there is evidence that suggests room sharing can decrease the risk of SIDS by up to 50%.
* Having your baby share your room can also make nighttime feeding and changes easier since the baby's bed is right there next to yours!
* Of course you will be more aware of when your baby needs you since they will be right next to you, you’ll be more likely to wake when they do.
I will always remember my first few weeks home as a brand new mum. My anxiety was high because all of a sudden I was totally responsible for the safety of a tiny little person. Having my sweet, precious newborn close to me during the night helped this sleep deprived mumma get some much needed sleep.
The responsibility of being a new parent and everything that can bring can feel heavy. But if you follow these guidelines you’re on the right track! If you have other questions about safe sleep be sure to speak with your health care professional or check out SIDS Website.