Parents must make sure their babies are in a safe sleeping position to prevent the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). A way to do that is to have babies sleep on their backs, not on the stomach facing down. While babies may prefer sleeping on their stomachs, this position increases their risk of being suffocated by their pillow, blanket or toys.
The risk for SIDS is the highest in the first six months of their lives. As such, the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends babies to sleep on their backs through the first year of their life.
The other worry parents may have about babies sleeping on their backs is that it causes flat-headedness. A way to manage this is to move the baby’s head to one side when they are placed to sleep and face the other side during the next sleep. Parents should also check their babies periodically to ensure the baby did not roll over onto their stomach while sleeping.
Here are the other factors to think of to make sure your baby sleeps comfortably and safely:
1. Body position
Babies should sleep on their backs because they don’t have the ability to hold their necks up and can suffocate if they sleep on their stomachs.
However, do not be alarmed when babies at around four to five months of age start rolling over to their stomach to sleep. By this time, the risk of SIDS lowers and the baby can turn his or her face to the side. It’s still important to place babies on their backs at the start of the sleep.
Putting a baby to sleep on his or her back is also safer because the baby will automatically lie down in a Fencing reflex or a Tonic Neck Reflex, where the baby’s head turns to one side with the arm and the leg of that side extended. This prevents a baby from rolling over onto the stomach before they are ready.
2. Baby pyjamas
Babies are just like adults so make sure they are not wrapped in too many layers or the baby will be hot and sweaty. Also, try not to use pyjamas with cords. While the cords help to create a snug fit for the baby, it is also a strangulation hazard.
3. Keep the crib empty
Make sure the mattress is firm and not soft. Experts suggest against using bumper pads, pillows, fluffy bedding or even stuffed toys around the baby in the crib as these can block a baby from breathing if the baby rolls over a little. Let the baby sleep with the feet touching the bottom of the crib so the baby doesn’t wiggle down under the bedding.
4. Room temperature
A cool environment at about 20 degrees Celsius should be comfortable enough for the baby to doze off to sleep. It’s important to make sure the babies are not too warm to prevent irritation and the development of heat rashes.
5. No bed-sharing
Babies can sleep in the same room as their parents but not on the same bed. This is to prevent potential suffocation in case the parents block the baby’s breathing while sleeping. For twins or baby siblings, they should be made to sleep separately as well.