Where Should My Baby Sleep?

A lot has been written about where your baby or child should sleep.  Expert opinion is often divided which can make life very confusing for a new parent.

However it is universally agreed that babies should sleep on their backs.  This is because young babies are unable to lift their heads away from the mattress/sheets or pillow and therefore can easily be suffocated by them. ‘Back to sleep’ was first recommended in 1992 by the American Association of Pediatricians and there has been a 50% drop in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) since then.

Here we’ll look at the information from The Sleep Foundation, the American Association of Pediatrics and kidshealth.org.

Where should my newborn sleep?

Many parents feel that a crib or bassinette in their own room is the best place for their new baby because a room down the hall seems too far away.  Also you’ll be waking to feed baby every 4-5 hours so you don’t want to have to go too far during the night.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends against bringing your baby into bed with you.  This is for your baby’s safety in case you or your partner might roll onto her or she should suffocate or become strangled by adult bedding etc.  They have also found a higher incidence of SIDS in households where the baby was co-sleeping.

Keep anything that might interfere with your baby’s breathing out of the bassinette – things like toys, pillows or blankets – and get into the habit of keeping mobiles out of reach.  While she can’t reach now, it won’t be long before she can and there may be a choking or strangulation hazard from cords.   Also keep cords from window blinds and curtains away from the crib.

The Canadian Pediatric Society has been recommending against the use of crib bumpers since 2004 as they may also be a safety risk.  If you do choose to use them, make sure they are firmly secured at the top and bottom.

Where should my baby sleep – age 1-6 months?

When you feel comfortable, it’s time to put your baby to sleep in her own room.  Talk to your partner as you may both want some quiet ‘couple time’ in your own space.

Even if your little one isn’t sleeping for long periods, having her own room will help her to understand a night time routine and how to settle on her own.  Look at the article on ‘how much my baby should sleep’ for tips on establishing a routine and encouraging sleep.

The advice from above is repeated here – put baby to sleep on her back and keep pillows, toys and blankets, bumpers etc out of the crib.  And be mindful of window blind cords and cord from mobiles etc.

Ensure all blankets, toys etc meet safety standards.

By 5-6 months she will be able to roll herself over.  This means her muscles are developing and getting stronger so that if she chooses to sleep on her front, there is less reason to worry. If you do have any concerns, talk to your paediatrician.

Co-sleeping is not recommended (see above).

Where should my baby sleep at 6-12 months old?

Most babies are changing their position a lot during the night by this age and will choose their own sleep position.

A crib is probably still a suitable place for her to sleep, in her own room and preferably without a TV.  Paediatricians agree that TV can cause too much stimulation before bed time for a good night’s sleep.

The advice about keeping anything that could interfere with her breathing away from the crib is the case for this age group too – see above in the ‘newborn’ section.

Where should my toddler sleep?

She’s probably still in a secure crib at this age but will be able to stand in it and reach out for objects within – and outside – her grasp.  Think again about window blind cords and hanging mobiles which she could become tangled in and may wrap round her neck.

And the advice about toys that could interfere with her breathing if they fell on her (eg large toys) is also the same – keep these out of the crib.

If you’re using bumpers in the crib, be careful that, as your toddler becomes more mobile, she may be able to use them as a tool to get out, or fall out, of the crib.  As soon as this looks like it is going to be a problem you might want to think about getting a bed of her own.

Her imagination is becoming more active every day too, so leave the TV/video in another room and read calming bedtime stories to her so that her dreams are not disturbed.

And finally:

Sleep routines are essential for her mental and physical development as well as harmony in the household.  She needs to learn a sleep routine so articles on how much baby should sleep and babies and naps may help with this.

Elspeth Raisbeck

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