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How to create a safe sleeping environment for your baby

Safe Sleeping GuidelinesIt’s something no new parent wants to think about, but Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI, previously known as SIDS) affects more than 3000 Australian families a year.

Today — Friday August 9 — is Red Nose Day, an annual event that raises awareness of SUDI and the importance of safe sleeping habits to protect newborns.

For mums of newborns, this can be overwhelming. To help, we’ve put together eight simple and effective safe sleeping tips to protect your baby from sleeping accidents and minimise the risk of SUDI.

How to create a safe sleeping environment for your baby

1. Place your baby on their back for every sleep

From newborn to 12 months, the safest sleeping position for your baby is to place them on their back. This will avoid any fatal chocking accidents that can occur if they accidentally sleep on their sides or tummy.

Even when your baby is old enough to roll over (4-6 months), you should still put them to sleep on their back. Do your best to gently turn them back but let your baby naturally find their sleeping position.

2. Ensure your baby’s head and face are fully uncovered

It is essential that your baby’s head and face is completely exposed when they are sleeping. Make sure that all bed sheets are tucked tightly and remove any pillows, huge blankets and soft toys from the cot during sleep time.

To keep your baby warm during the winter months, you can use a safe infant sleeping bag with a fitted neck, armholes and no hood.

3. Dress your baby appropriately to room temperature

If in doubt, dress your baby how you would dress yourself at night – comfortably warm and not overly hot.

Check your baby’s temperature by touching their back or tummy and it should feel warm. Don’t worry if your baby’s hands and feet are cool, this is normal!

4. Create a smoke-free baby zone

The risk of SUDI is high when babies are exposed to smoking during pregnancy and as newborns. You can protect your baby by creating a smoke-free zone in your home, nursery, in your car and anywhere else where you spend a lot of time.

If you are trying to quit smoking and need some help, you can speak to your local GP or call the Quitline on 137 848.

5. Have a separate baby sleeping space in your bedroom

Babies need a different sleeping environment to adults, so while bed-sharing is welcome in some
cultures, we recommend setting up a cot in your bedroom so your baby will have their own sleeping
space but is still close by.

6. Make sure your baby’s cot meets Australian safety standards

It doesn’t matter if you’re using a new, second-hand, portable or stationary cot, it is essential that
your cot meets current Australian standards. You should be able to easily tell by checking for a clear
label (AS/NZS 2172).

Even if the cot looks safe, you should still avoid using an unregulated one as they can pose multiple hidden dangers to your baby, including exposure to lead paint or injuries from being caught in gaps. If you’re unsure, you can easily refer to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s Product Safety Laws for household cots for more guidance.

7. Check the mattress is firm, level and fits cot

Cushions or any makeshift bedding aren’t a safe sleeping surface for your baby. Instead, there
should be no gaps between the mattress and cot to avoid any chance of your baby jamming their

Also ensure the mattress is flat and firm to prevent your baby from rolling over in their sleep. For this reason, you should also steer clear of padding and layering mattresses.

8. If possible, breastfeed your baby

We understand that breastfeeding isn’t an option for all new mums, but if you have the choice research by Red Nose Day has shown that breastfeeding has multiple benefits for babies, including reducing the risk of SUDI.

Regardless of which method you choose, safe sleeping practices are ultimately the most important in protecting your baby.

If you have any more questions about SUDI or safe sleeping practices for your newborn, we recommend speaking to your midwife or family doctor.

You can also call the Red Nose Day 24-hour support line 1300 308 307.

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