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The guidelines seem to chan the latest advice on helping
;e every five minutes, so what's > your little one sleep safely?
There are few sights more beautiful than a slumbering baby or child. Not only do they embody tranquillity, but they also give you some peace and quiet! It doesn't necessarily mean you'll have peace of mind, however. You're likely to wonder if he'll climb out of the cot or get caught in the bars. Or, every parent's nightmare, will he silently suffer a cot death?
There's no shortage of answers: family and friends, health visitors, bed manufacturers and medical experts all offer advice on sleep safety. Confusingly, this often conflicts. But rest assured that there are also tried-and-trusted measures, which reduce the risks. And once you know your child's safely in the land of nod, you can sleep soundly, too.
Should my baby sleep in my bedroom?
The Department of Health suggests that a baby should sleep in his parents' room for the first six months, as this is considered to reduce the risk of cot death. But it's unclear why, and the reduction is small so don't worry if it's not practical.
What should my baby sleep in?
Many parents start with a Moses basket or carrycot; both are portable and compact. For babies to sleep safely in either, use the same rules as for cots: ensure the mattress is a close fit, keep bedding light and put him with his feet at the bottom of the mattress so he can't slip further under his blanket, and tuck the blanket around his chest.
You can buy stands for Moses baskets, but they're quite light so probably not a good idea if you have a toddler or dog who couIc tip them over. Baskets are safe until your baby can roll over or weighs more than 7kg (15lb). After that, he needs something sturdier.
Cradles are ideal in the early weeks and months but, again, they can be knocked or pushed by bigger children or pets. Your baby may learn to rock himself as he grows, so lock the rocker once he's asleep.
What should I look for when buying a cot?
Depending on design, your baby may use his cot for up to three years. In that time, he'll acquire a range of ►
skills, such as rolling, climbing and jumping! To ensure these vital skills can be developed in safety, his cot should have...
• A close-fitting mattress (no more than two finger widths between it and the cot side).
• A drop-side mechanism that can be locked when fully raised.
• No horizontal bars to climb.
• A mattress adjustment level, if it has one, that leaves 50cm (20in) between the top of the mattress and top of the cot at its lowest leve and 20cm (8in) at its highest.
What goes in the cot?
Soft furnishings, such as cot bumpers and pillows, appeal to our desire for our babies to be cosy. But they're not necessary for little ones and may be dangerous, as can large, soft toys. All can contribute to overheating or even suffocation, so keep the cot clear.
A good mattress is much more important. Look for the blue and white label that guarantees fire-
safety standards. The mattress should have a wipe-clean surface and washable cover. Keeping it well-aired and clean may not seem a safety issue, but think of the bugs!
Apart from pee, there are dust mites. These are unavoidable, as they thrive in warm, moist conditions and feed off skin particles. Even children can lose half a pint of body moisture in a night and shed a pound of skin particles a year - much of it while sleeping - so there's no avoiding them. But they're really only an issue if your child is prone to respiratory problems such as asthma.
Bugs in the bed are, in part, why parents are often advised to buy a new mattress. But untold numbers of babies and children have slept on second-hand mattresses and thrived. As long as it's clean, don't fret if you can't afford new. Covers should be traditionally made up, with sheets and blankets. But don't use duvets, as they're dangerous for the same reason as cot soft furnishings.
Sleeping bags are convenient, as
Time for beddy byes!
long as they're designed for regular night use and are small enough to stop your baby from sliding down into it. The safest are those the baby wears like a garment, which secures over the shoulders and has armholes that prevent the baby slipping down into the bag and overheating or having her breathing restricted. They shouldn't have hoods.
You can buy sleeping bags for babies up to 9-12 months, which
Is it dangerous to sleep with my baby in my bed?
Co-sleeping is an appealing idea: there's no getting up in the night to attend to your child, she can be instantly comforted and resettled if she wakes and you're not disturbed by worries about how she is in the next room.
éfr everyone for thousands of years, and still is in many cultures. But that doesn't mean that it's risk-free. About 140 babies die in their parents' beds each year in the UK.
You can greatly reduce this risk if you follow the standard advice, which is to not sleep with your baby if either you or your partner... • is extremely tired; has been smoking; has been drinking alcohol or using any kind of medicinal or recreational drug; • sleeps under a bulky duvet.
This doesn't just apply to when you have your baby in your bed. Sleeping on the sofa carries equal risks, and while cases of cot death in bed have fallen by 70% since safety guidelines were issued in the 1990s (see So is cot death preventable? right), those that occur on the sofa have increased fourfold as parents haven't followed the rules in the living room.
easily covers the period at which little ones are at highest risk of cot death. Some can be extended to growwith the baby, ensuring his feet are at the bottom. But don't be tempted to add blankets, as they could easily overheat your child. And don't put your baby or tot to bed with a hot water bottle - you might suffer cold feet at night, but they don't!
Swaddling, where you wrap a baby up very tightly, isn't a tradition in our culture, so there's been very little research on the subject. If you do swaddle your baby, use thin materials, leave his head uncovered and restrict the use of other bedding - getting too hot is a greater danger than being too cold.
When should my child get his own 'big' bed?
All children are different, but it's usually at around 3. If you prepare your toddler well by discussing the move to a big bed, the emotional transition is likely to be smooth. But the physical change still involves a learning process, such as how not to tumble out on to the floor in the night!
The risk of injury is very small (a child's body is relaxed in sleep), but it'll scare him. Guard rails on each side - or on one side if the bed side butts up to a wall - are usually all you need. You could also put down a rug and pillows, cushions or an oIc duvet for a fewweeks just in case.
Around one child in 50 sleepwalks or has sleep terrors and although accidents are fairly rare, you'llwant
It's lovely to lie with your baby, but don't forget to follow the rules!
Will giving my baby a dummy prevent cot death?
Your sleeping baby can't get much safer than this one...
Dummies aren't a means of prevention as such, but they are associated with a reduced risk of cot death. These recent findings are slightly confusing for parents, but basically mean that if your baby uses a dummy, he should carry on doing so.
Experts don't yet know why dummies help in babies who are used to them, but the statistics prove they do. And dummy-users who suddenly stop are at increased risk of cot death.
So if your baby has a dummy, be sure to use it every night. It's thought that it may help by creating more air space if a baby's face gets under a blanket. But this doesn't wholly explain the difference between users and non-users, so there's no reason for you to introduce one as a means of prevention.
to take steps to lessen the likelihood. So make sure the bedroom floor is clear of toys and keep a stairgate at the top of the stairs or across the doorway of your child's bedroom.
As you'll know if your child has either of these conditions, it's best to guide him back to bed without waking him. Sleep terrors anc sleepwalking usually stop of their own accord by the age of 5 or 6,
Whether or not your child sleepwalks, keep his cot or cotbed away from windows. Curiosity has led to many an accident, with little ones getting tangled in curtain cords or trying to climb out of a window. Window locks are as important as shortening or tucking away cords,
Are bunk beds safe?
The bunk bed is a great idea, mostly because it saves valuable space. But in a child's mind, it can be a castle turret, a trampoline or a launch pad -all invitations for accidents. You can't entirely stop this, but you can warn your child of the risks. Warnings have their limitations, of course, and that cautionary tale of how Uncle Edward jumped off a top bunk and spent a boring and painful week in hospital is no guarantee of safe play!
Ensure the bunk is as safe as you can make it, conforming to the British safety standard (BS EN747). It needs:
• Guard rails on each side at the top.
• A mattress at least 10cm (4in) below the top of the guard rail.
• Gaps between under-mattress slats of no more than 7.5cm (3 in).
• A ladder with treads at least 3cm (12in)wide and 20cm (8in) apart.
Children under 6 should never sleep in a top bunk, but don't forget their safety considerations - the space at the bottom should allow the child underneath to sit up without bashing his head!
So is cot death preventable?
Also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), cot death is a prospect that haunts most parents at some time. But there's been lots of research into the subject over the last 15 years and enough is now known for parents to dramatically reduce the risk. Here are some tips to calm your fears (and don't forget, boys and premature babies are at slightly higher risk). So...
1 Lie your baby down on his back to sleep.
2 Place him 'feet to foot' His feet should reach the end of the cot, with blankets to his chest.
3 Don't let your baby overheat: never place a cot next to a radiator; don't use a duvet or any headwear.
4 Don't smoke in pregnancy or around a young baby (dads, too!).
5 Keep baby's cradle or cot in your room for the first six months.
6 Use firm bedding for him - no pillows, bean bags or water beds.
7 Don't bring your baby into your bed to sleep.
8 Don't fall asleep on an armchair or sofa with your baby - you might smoother him.
9 If your baby is unwell, contact your doctor promptly.
10 Don't worry! Cot death is rare - especially after 5 months.
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Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.