Ask DadPad, Parenting Advice

Ask DadPad: How do I keep my baby safe sleep while they sleep?

Posted on 19th March 2021

This week is Safer Sleep Week and, for 2021, The Lullaby Trust have made dads their focus.  This comes in the light of the results of their recently published survey which reports that “less than a third of dads have been given advice on how to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome…, with 74% stating they are worried or very worried…” about SIDS (previously known as ‘cot death’).  As Jenny Ward, The Lullaby Trust’s Chief Executive, comments:

It is very worrying that dads are not receiving information on how to sleep their baby safely. Most dads play a key role in the care of their baby and we know that during lockdown dads are taking an even more prominent role in childcare. Safer sleep advice should be followed consistently for all sleep and nap times so it is very important that both parents know how to reduce the risk of SIDS.

The good news is that, not only have The Lullaby Trust set their aim for this year’s Safer Sleep Week to be raising awareness of where dads can access the support and information that they need to help ensure their babies and young children sleep safely, but they’re also going to be producing dad-focused resources in partnership with Public Health England, which will be launched this Spring.

In the meantime, though, there’s already some fantastic resources available for dads (and, indeed, all parents and carers) on how to keep your baby safe when sleeping.

 

DadPad

DadPad montage

Obviously, for those dads-to-be and new dads living in areas of the country where the DadPad app is available and/or who have a copy of the DadPad, they will be able to find clear safe sleep information both within those resources and via links to further information. Safe sleep – alongside information on surviving without sleep, as a new parent – has always been a core component of the DadPad message, and it will continue to be one of our most important areas to highlight to new dads, given how important it is.

 

Every Sleep Counts

Back in November 2020, we published a blog post all about the amazing Every Sleep Counts resources produced by the team at Hampshire Safeguarding Children’s Partnership.

These help parents and carers make the best and safest choices when it comes to baby’s sleep.  You can read the full blog post here, but the key Every Sleep Counts message is a very simple one:

The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as its parents/carers for the first six months.

Despite what others might tell you about how and where their babies slept “and nothing terrible ever happened to them”, there are lots of good, sound and researched reasons as to why this is the safest sleep practice for babies, and most of it relates to baby’s development.  For example:

  • Movement – depending on their age/developmental stage, young babies are either not able to move and change position at all, or are unable to move back to a safe position if they have somehow managed to roll over. Putting your baby to sleep in a specifically-designed and age-appropriate cot or Moses basket, with a firm, flat mattress and without any items (such as soft toys, cot bumpers, loose bedding, pillows etc) which could increase the risk of their head becoming covered is therefore essential.
  • Temperature regulation – babies’ developing nervous system means that they are initially not able to regulate their own body temperatures, with 40% of the heat that their body produces coming from their head, where they also lose up to 85% of their heat. Therefore, keeping baby’s room and baby’s body at the right temperature for safe sleep is very important, as is keeping their head uncovered; a baby can quickly overheat if: inappropriate bedding is used; baby is overdressed; and/or the room is too hot.
  • Narrow, immature airways – again, because they are still growing and developing, a baby’s airways are still narrow, and their lung capacity is very small (20-25 million air sacs at birth, compared to 300 million for an adult). Baby’s sleep environment must therefore not contain anything with the potential to restrict baby’s ability to breathe clean air.  For example, baby should not be sleeping in a room where people have been/are smoking; there should be nothing in/around baby’s bed which could restrict his airflow; and – especially in relation to a car seat – babies should not sleep for long periods of time in a non-flat position, where the risk of their head slumping forwards is increased.
  • Need to wake regularly – despite what others might tell you (we all know of someone whose baby allegedly slept through the night from a few days post-birth…), it is completely natural and normal for babies to need to wake regularly, for food, for care and for comfort. This is why it’s essential to have baby close to you at all times, so that you, as his parents, are able to quickly and easily respond to his needs.

Another key point from the Every Sleep Counts message is exactly what the name suggests: in terms of baby safety, ALL sleeps matter.  This means that it’s not just at night that you have to ensure that the rules of safety are being followed; naps during the day and/or (when we’re allowed…) ‘sleepovers’ at other locations all raise the potential of leading to an unsafe or dangerous sleep situation arising.  Every time your baby falls asleep, its essential that you check that the Every Sleep Counts message is being followed.

Lift The Baby

Another brilliant resource for dads, which underlines another very important safe sleep message, is the Lift the Baby campaign. This initiative was a collaboration between the various NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups and Foundation Trusts in Berkshire, NHS Creative, The Lullaby Trust and players from the London Irish Rugby Club.  We helped promote the campaign in 2019, and shared their message via another blog post at that time. Supported via a YouTube video, the campaign sought to highlight the following key pieces of information, aimed in particular at new dads:

  • NEVER fall asleep on a sofa or an armchair whilst holding your baby, as this can increase the risk of SIDS by up to 50 times!
  • NEVER sleep in the same bed as a baby if you’ve recently drunk alcohol or taken any drugs which make you feel sleepy/less aware, if you or your partner smoke, or if your baby was born prematurely/very small

 

In either of these situations, you should instead #LiftTheBaby to its own, safe, sleep space, and ensure that it is placed on its back.

The Lullaby Trust

Throughout this year’s Safer Sleep Week, The Lullaby Trust have been sharing safe sleep messages which are specifically aimed at dads via their social media channels.  A good starting place is their Safer Sleep Week Quiz, where you can check your safe sleep knowledge. Other useful pieces of information include:

  • Advice on setting up a safe sleep space for baby;
  • Safe sleep in car seats; and
  • The simple ABC message: ALWAYS place your baby on their BACK in a CLEAR cot or sleep space

All their safe sleep advice can be found on their website, too.

The health professionals supporting your family

And, of course, you should always speak with the health professionals – midwives, Health Visitors, other members of the Health Visiting Team – if you have any concerns about your baby or child’s safety when sleeping.  Cornish Health Visitor and good friend of DadPad, Jane Walker, asked us to remind all dads, and families, to always remember that they are here for you if you have any concerns.  All Community Midwifery and Health Visiting teams will have a contact number for you – it’s often inside your baby’s Red Book – by which you can get hold of them.   Don’t take a risk – your baby’s health and safety is too important!

Social media

To keep updated on all the latest safer sleep information, we highly recommend that you follow all the above listed organisations via their social media channels: