Written by iCandy Guest Blogger and Baby & Toddler Sleep Consultant, Charlotte Hillyard:
Brrrr the winter months surely have arrived. With crisp mornings and even crisper dark evenings, the winter months can bring with them many challenges to families with young children. Bouncing from colds, bugs and viruses, notwithstanding the current cost of living crisis as well, this winter might feel like a particularly tough one.
With energy prices rising, you may be feeling worried about how to keep your baby warm at home this winter. The temptation to layer them up both day and night, to combat putting the heating on may be crossing your mind. However, this alone comes with its own safety implications and ensuring your babies sleep environment this winter is a safer one, is paramount.
Now, I know you may have heard it before, but the safest place for your baby to sleep is in their own clear, flat, separate sleep space, such as a cot or Moses basket, in the same room as you, for the first 6 months of their life. Contrary to many images you see online, cot bumpers, cuddly toys etc. should not be in the carrycot. The positioning of the carrycot or Moses basket at home is also key. It’s very important that it is not placed near a radiator or a portable heater, as babies are unable to regulate their body temperature, which means they are at risk of becoming too hot.
Dressing your baby for sleep time during these chilly months can sometimes be tricky. If you are choosing to use a baby sleeping bag, ensure that you are using one that has a tog to reflect the temperature. Don’t be tempted to use a lighter tog and then layer them up with thick blankets, as this poses a risk to your baby overheating. Or, if you would prefer to use sheets and blankets, you will need to ensure they are firmly tucked in (not higher than the shoulders) in order to avoid your baby’s head becoming covered by loose bedding.
If you are choosing to co-sleep, just remember they don’t need any extra layers, such as your duvet. All they need is a clear, flat sleep place, and a sleeping bag. There are times when you should avoid co-sleeping altogether as it can become dangerous.
Co-sleeping with your baby is very dangerous if:
- You or anyone in the bed has recently drunk any alcohol.
- You or anyone in the bed smokes.
- You or anyone in the bed has taken any drugs or medication that make you feel sleepy
- Your baby was born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or weighed under 2.5kg or 5½ lbs when they were born.
In these scenarios, it is always best to put your baby in their own safe sleep space, such as a cot or Moses basket. Keeping the cot or Moses basket next to your bed might make this easier.
I know it can be tempting in situations when baby is unsettled to take them to another room and have a change of scenery, which is totally fine. However, it’s so important not to fall asleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby. The risk of SIDS is 50 times higher for babies when they sleep on a sofa or armchair with an adult. They are also at risk of accidental death as they can easily slip into a position where they are trapped and can't breathe.
To co-sleep safely, it’s important to:
- Keep pillows and adult bedding away from your baby or any other items that could cover their head or cause them to overheat. A high proportion of babies who die as a result of SIDS are found with their head covered by loose bedding.
- Follow all The Lullaby Trust’s other safer sleep advice to reduce the risk of SIDS such as sleeping baby on their back
- To reduce the risk of accidents, do not bring other children or pets into bed with you.
- Try to make sure or check that baby cannot be trapped, wedged or fall out of bed or get trapped between the mattress and the wall
- Never leave your baby unattended in an adult bed
- If you are bedsharing with your baby you should consider any risks before every sleep. It is easy for your situation to change if you are unwell or have drunk any alcohol, which means your baby will be safest in a separate sleep space such as a cot or Moses basket on that occasion
The winter months are also great for picturesque pushchair walks and the chances are your little one will no doubt have a snooze whilst on the go. Knowing how to dress your baby for these walks can often be a little confusing, especially if you are in and out of shops. It may be tempting to keep them in their hat, pram/snow suit indoors, in order to keep them warm. However, as appealing as that may be, it’s advisable to remove items such as these when indoors, again to avoid them overheating.
If you are in any doubt, you can always check your baby’s temperature by placing your hand on your little one’s chest and/or back of their neck to make sure that their skin doesn’t feel clammy or sweaty. Warm to touch is absolutely fine, but clammy or sweaty means they are too hot so remove a layer of clothing or bedding. Always be mindful that their hands and feet will always feel cold to touch.
Trust your instincts. If it feels ‘off’ then it generally is. Regularly checking your child and their sleep environment temperature, can really help on those cold winter evenings.
If you have any doubt, always refer to the Lullaby Trust website advice on Safe Sleep. If you are unsure if your baby is ill, Baby Check features 19 simple checks that you can do if your baby is showing signs of illness. Each check tests for a different symptom and when completed, a score is calculated that tells you how ill your baby is. The app then lets you know whether your baby needs to see a doctor or health professional.
Charlotte Hillyard is the founder and CEO of 'The Gift of Sleep' and she is passionate about helping families to improve their little ones' sleep. Mum of one and based in Essex, Charlotte helps families via her 1-2-1 support package services, Sleep Clinic sessions and with the MIND charity on their local programme 'Mums Matter'. Charlotte also offers 'The Gift Of Sleep' unique gifting boxes and vouchers, which enables you to gift a little bit of sleepy dust to a friend.
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