How to create a better sleep space for your newborn baby

Updated: Jul 18, 2018


Safe sleeping for babies can be an anxiety-fraught topic for new parents, but the good news is we know more than ever before about minimising the risks of your little one's all-important slumber time. These advisable sleeping practices are simple to remember, and can help put your mind to rest during those early days.

Know the basics

Cindy Davenport, midwife, child health nurse and founding director of Safe Sleep Space says: "If you set yourself up from the start with the research-based guidelines and know there are experienced, knowledgeable health professionals – midwives and child health nurses – at hand to help you, you'll be saved a lot of worry."

In those early months parents can be sleep-deprived and frustrated, she says, and knowing your sleep safety basics inside-out can protect against taking unintentional risks when you may not be at your sharpest.

The only way is back

Place your baby on their back to sleep from the very beginning, for both day and night sleeps. It's not as safe for babies to sleep on their sides or tummies as on their backs. Your baby's head must be uncovered as they regulate their temperature through their head and face.

Clean air

Indoor air can be five times as polluted as outdoor air, [1] thanks to odours, environmental toxins and dust particles. Consider an air purifier to ensure your family is breathing in cleaner air. These popular high-tech devices can aid in reducing airborne contaminants in the home, including pollen, mould, pet dander, odours, chemical irritants and smoke. Of course for maximum safety there should be no smoking in the baby's home. If you smoke, your doctor can recommend appropriate treatment and local support services to help you quit. "And don't be afraid to ask visitors not to smoke in your home," says Cindy.

Your room, their bed

Says Cindy: "The best place we know for babies to sleep safely is in their own sleeping space – a cot or bassinette - in the same room as their adult caregivers at least until six months and up to 12 months. This applies to all times of day; naps as well as night sleeps."

Mattress basics

Your baby should sleep on a very firm, clean, flat mattress with no tilt or elevation. 'Australian regulations say the mattress should be no thicker than 75mm," says Cindy. "Babies or toddlers are at risk of getting stuck between the mattress and cot side, so the regulations also state there shouldn't be a gap of any more than 20mm."

Cot care

It's essential that there should be nothing at all in the cot or bassinette except your baby, to avoid suffocation risks. "It can seem pretty boring – no soft toys, bumpers, duvets and no loose blankets anywhere, not even hanging over the side," says Cindy. Keep baby's cot away from hanging cords such as blinds, curtains, or electrical appliances, as they could get caught around baby's neck. Never use electric blankets, hot water bottles or wheat bags for babies.


Day and night

Your baby's own cot or bassinette is the safest place for them to sleep – at all times. "If you're downstairs on the sofa you might be tempted to let them sleep there if they nod off," says Cindy, "but sofa sharing greatly increases risk. It might seem easy when your baby falls asleep on your chest to leave them there, but that's not safe either."

Never let babies sleep in bouncers, hammocks, beanbags, waterbeds, or car seats. Prams are not considered safe sleep spaces either, says Cindy. "There's less airflow around the baby's head."

Don't overheat

Although health professionals don't recommend a specific room temperature for babies, their advice is not to let your little one overheat. As a general guide, your baby's room temperature should feel comfortable to you. Concentrate on your baby's body temperature for the best indication; Cindy advises feeling the baby's upper chest and back to check for overheating, as those areas accurately reflect a little one's core temperature. "It's normal for their hands and feet to feel cold," she adds.

Swaddle safety

Although wrapping your baby is recommended as a strategy for settling, always leave the head and face uncovered, don't overdress your baby beneath the swaddle, and always un-swaddle as soon as the baby signals they are trying to roll over. Stop swaddling before the sixth month, because after this age infants will be able to roll over. 

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