We’re not sure who came up with the expression, ‘sleep like a baby’, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t the parent of a newborn.
Babies can fuss when you put them to bed, they can wake up often in the night, and they can cry more than you ever imagined. Sadly, a small number of babies die in their sleep unexpectedly or accidentally. The sleeping arrangements you choose are very important for giving your baby the safest sleep possible day and night. Your health care professional is ready to help!
1. Talk to your doctor, midwife, or public health nurse about where your baby might sleep.
The safest place for an infant to sleep is in a Health Canada approved crib or bassinet near you, with no bumper pads, pillows, heavy blankets, or toys. If need be, your health care provider can help you find an alternative sleep space with a firm flat surface – like a sturdy box or basket, a washtub, or even an empty dresser drawer, lined with a piece of cardboard and placed on the floor.
2. Learn about why putting your baby on his or her back for sleeping helps prevent sleep-related death.
Babies are safest when they sleep flat on their backs. That way they can breathe freely, and any milk that is spit up is less likely to enter their airways. Even propping a baby with pillows at night puts them in danger of rolling to one side and blocking their airway.
3. Ask about the risks of bed-sharing.
Sharing a room with your baby for the first six months is ideal, but sharing a bed is not always safe. Your health care professional can guide you through a bed-sharing risk assessment and safety checklist, and help you determine whether it’s a good idea for your family or not.
4. Weigh the pros and cons of pacifiers.
The Canadian Pediatric Society and Perinatal Services BC have not made a recommendation about the use of pacifiers when it comes to safe infant sleep. That’s because there is a lack of strong evidence for or against it. One thing to know is pacifiers can sometimes interfere with breastfeeding, although successful breastfeeding and pacifier use is possible. If you do decide to use a pacifier, you should give it to your baby at every sleep. Never force your baby to take a pacifier, and if it falls out of his or her mouth while they sleep you don’t need to put it back in. Check out the Soother Safety Checklist in Baby’s Best Chance. Talk to your health care provider about your decision to ensure it is right for your family.
5. Learn about alternatives to swaddling.
Swaddling (wrapping the baby snugly with arms close to the body) is often used in the hospital environment, but it is not recommended for your baby at home. It may lead to overheating, and could also increase the risk of chest infections – two factors sometimes related to sleep-related death. Also, if your baby rolls onto his or her stomach while swaddled, he or she might not be able to roll back and this could cause suffocation. Your health care professional can show you other ways to keep your baby safe and cozy.
If you have any other questions about safe infant sleep, your health care professional can help you build a safer sleep plan that works for your family and respects your cultural traditions.
Make every sleep a safer sleep, day or night… so you can sleep soundly too.
Author's bio: Today’s blog post is based on expert information from Perinatal Services BC and the Ministry of Health. It is one piece in a three part series raising awareness about sleep related infant death.