One of the most exciting aspects of preparing for a new baby is organising their nursery. Thinking about where your baby will eventually sleep and what they are going to sleep in takes some planning and discussion. Practical factors such as the size of your house and the number of children will determine whether the new baby will have their own room, or need to share with an older sibling. There is too much individual variation in families and homes to say what the best option is. Parents generally make their own decisions based on what will work in their home and what suits their own family.
No matter how much planning is done though, most parents want their newborn to sleep in the same room as they do. The parent’s bedroom is actually recommended as the safest place for babies to sleep for the first 6 to 12 months of their life. Placing your baby’s cot or bassinette next to your bed will allow you to see them and feel reassured they are safe. Parents and their newborns are not meant to be physically separated and they need to be close to each other. After 12 months, most parents are ready to move their baby into their own room or nursery.
Cot or Bassinette – Which is Better?
This is really about personal choice. Some parents prefer the size of a bassinette because it takes up such a small amount of space and is portable. Mothers particularly, can feel a bassinette creates a cosier sleeping atmosphere for their small baby. Other parents like to use a cot from birth and avoid the inevitable transition to one when the baby is around 3-4 months old.
The major considerations are the safety aspects of both. If a cot or bassinette has been handed down in a family and has not been bought new, it needs to be checked as safe so it does not pose a risk of harm. New, or second hand, your cot must comply with the safety requirements of the National Standard AS/NZS 2172:2003. The standard can be found on the Ministry of Consumer Affairs’ website. Make sure the cot you are buying or intend to use meets this standard.
Bassinettes look sweet, though parents need to be careful about using bumpers, ribbon ties and lots of loose bedding in them. Those that have a rocking function can be risky, especially with young toddlers in the house. Bassinettes with wheels need to have a locking mechanism as well.
For more information on keeping your child’s cot safe, see the Ministry of Consumer Affairs website.
Swaddling has been found useful by many parents to help their child develop sound sleeping habits. However it is paramount that swaddling be done correctly to make it a safe practice . If you choose to swaddle, you baby needs to be wrapped firmly, maintain a clear face, and always be lying flat on their back unless they are being held. Stop swaddling when your baby starts to roll over.
Change for our Children have developed some Safe Swaddling guidelines for sleeping babies:
- Position: only for babies on their back
- Material: only if lightweight
- Wrapping: only if firm but not tight (firm enough to prevent a covered face, and enable easy breathing movements)
- Co-sleeping: only when sleeping in own ‘baby bed’
- Developmental stage: only until a baby attempts to turn (then stop or use arms free wrapping)
For a demonstration on how to swaddle safely, visit the Change for Children website.
Some babies don’t like the feeling of being contained in a wrap and prefer not to be. Not all babies are happy to be wrapped and wriggle their way out, no matter how well the wrap is constructed! This is fine and wrapping should not be something which is forced on a baby. Tucking your baby in and making sure there is not a lot of loose bedding they can slide under is a safe option.
An alternative to wrapping is to use a sleeping bag. You will need to make sure you get one which is the right size for your baby and which has a fitted neck and armholes. These are particularly useful in winter and you can add layers of clothing underneath, depending on how cold it is.
Safe Sleeping Guidelines
The safety of your little one is paramount. In order to reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death of an Infant (SUDI), also known as SIDS or Cot death, it is vital to follow the safe sleeping recommendations from SIDS New Zealand, and Change for our Children, to ensure they sleep safely. All babies in all cultures and at all times need these 6 conditions to protect them from SUDI.
- Having a smoke-free pregnancy and household.
- On their back for sleeping.
- Breast feeding your baby.
- When asleep a clear face and head free from hazards that can lead to suffocation.
- Sleeping with baby in your room for the first 6 months.
- Ensuring your baby sleeps in its own bed, especially if premature, born small or your
family is not smoke free.
The babies that are safest from SUDI have all 6 factors present.
Factors that are worth considering
- How practical and easy is it to wash bedding. Being able to throw sheets and blankets in the washing machine and then line dry them will save you a lot of time and energy. Avoid harsh detergents with strong perfumes; these can irritate a baby’s skin.
- Try to have enough bedding so you do not have to constantly wash. Babies aren’t careful about where they vomit and don’t “hold on” until there is a nappy underneath them.
- Aim for 100% cotton and natural materials where you can. Babies’ skin can easily be irritated by artificial fibres. Static electricity builds up in nylon blends and cotton, wool and linen blends feel better.
- Avoid using pillows until your baby is in a bed. They are a safety risk for small babies who can wedge their heads under them. Older babies can also use a pillow as a step to hoist themselves up and out of their cot.
- Aim to position your baby in the lower end of their cot rather than towards the top. Resting their feet on the bottom cot rails will stop them from sliding under the covers and their face being covered.