How to create a safe sleeping environment for your baby

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Bringing home the newest member of your family is an incredibly exciting time, but it can also be quite confusing. First time parents, in particular, may struggle with finding accurate information about how to ensure that their little one is safe and happy.

Sleeping arrangements in particular come with a lot of different advice that often contradicts other things you may have heard, so it can be hard to find a way that's safe for your little one to sleep.

The below tips are designed to help combat this and are broken down into sections for easy reference.

Bedtime routine

Your baby's bedtime routine will impact not only the quality of their sleep, but also the safety, so it's important to get it right.

Never cover baby's face

The most important thing to remember when putting your little one to bed is to never cover their face. While we might like snuggling up and pulling the doona over our faces if the room is a little too bright or chilly this is incredibly dangerous for babies.

Back sleeping is best

When putting your baby down for the night they should be placed on their back to help prevent them getting into any situations they shouldn't. The caveat to this is that once they can roll themselves around this behaviour should not be restricted as it is good for their development.

Choose the right clothes

While adults can wake up at night to change their clothes if they start feeling too hot or cold, babies cannot regulate their body temperature in the same way. Because of this, choosing the right sleeping outfit is vital to ensure that your little one is comfortable and safe. As a general rule, babies should be kept warm but not dressed in anything that poses a risk of overheating. When checking a baby's temperature, remember that cool hands and feet are normal, but their chest should feel warm. If your little one is sweating or red faced, they're too hot.

To swaddle or not swaddle

When your baby is little, swaddling is fine but should be done in an age appropriate manner that allows them to move at their present rate of development. Once they are able to roll around by themselves, swaddling is no longer recommended as the restriction of their movement can pose a danger.

Baby's bed

Another vital sleep safety measure for little ones is ensuring that their environment is appropriate. All bedding, cots and mattresses should be in accordance with Australian standards and only used if they're in good condition. Any items that become damaged or unsafe should be replaced immediately.

The Australian standards are:

  • AS/NZS 2172 for cots
  • AS/NZS 2195 for portable cots
  • AS/NZS 8811.1:2013 for mattresses

It is also important to keep any soft or squishy items well away from your baby while they are sleeping. This is because they pose a risk of suffocation if your little one rolls into them and their face becomes covered.

General safety

While your baby's sleeping routine and space are most important when it comes to keeping them safe at bedtime, there are other, more general steps that you can take to help ensure that your little one stays happy and healthy. 

Ensure your home is secure

A home that is secure is a home that is safe. The installation of security cameras and smart locks can greatly increase your peace of mind. We also suggest checking that all doors and windows are locked before heading to bed and ensuring that there aren't any easy ways for would be intruders to break in.

Don't smoke inside

For those who smoke, it is advised that smoking is only done outside. This is because smoke can settle in furniture and other soft finishings and can pose a risk to your baby if they're exposed.

Keep bubs in your room

When they are in their infant stage, it is a good idea to keep your baby in the same room that you sleep in. This makes it far easier to keep an eye on them and quickly rectify any issues that may arise.

Once your little one moves to their own room, it is a good idea to make use of a baby monitor to help keep an eye on what is going on. These devices are also useful for when baby naps during the day if you will not be in the same room as them for the entirety of their nap.

Have plenty of tummy time

Because babies sleep on their backs, there is a risk that they may develop flat spots on their heads. While this issue usually goes away by itself and does not commonly cause long term harm, it's still a good idea to avoid the formation of these flat spots if you can. A good way to do this is to ensure that your little one has plenty of tummy time to help counteract the time they spend laying on their backs while napping.

A note on co-sleeping

Co-sleeping is not recommended at all for children under the age of 12 months. This can pose a significant risk to their health and safety, especially if parents have been drinking, are smokers, have taken sleeping medication or are particularly tired when they go to bed. 

If you do choose to co-sleep, it is important to take extra steps to keep your baby safe including:

  • Only ever co-sleep on a firm and flat mattress
  • Do not swaddle when co-sleeping
  • Ensure baby stays on their back
  • Tie your hair back and remove choking hazards such as jewellery 
  • Do not sleep baby between adults
  • Keep bed and baby away from the wall so they cannot become trapped
  • Do not place baby near the edge of the bed
  • Ensure baby does not end up in or under adult bedding

Final word

Creating a safe sleeping environment for your little one is crucial to their health and development. The tips outlined in this piece will help you do this, and we strongly recommend following them.

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Jessica Jones
Written by
Jessica Jones
Jess has been writing educational content for almost ten years with a focus on lifestyle content. She loves coffee, dogs and all things fitness, and can often be found with her nose buried in a book and her music blaring through her earphones.

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