Getting a good night's sleep

A full night's sleeo is one of the things that many new parents miss most after their baby is born. It is normal for babies to wake during the night to be fed and comforted.

It’s not realistic to expect your baby to sleep several times a day and wake only for feeds and to smile and coo. Some babies may behave like this but most don’t. By responding to your baby's cries, you are teaching her that the world is a safe place. This will help her to develop the skills to sleep through the night in the long term. As long as you understand this, you can prepare for it – and look forward to the time when she sleeps through the night!

Think carefully about your baby's safety before every sleep.

Baby Box

The box can be used as a safe sleeping space for your baby, which means that you do not need to buy a Moses basket or travel cot if you don’t want to. It provides a handy space for babies to sleep near their parents at night, and close to parents during daytime sleeps. Keeping your baby right beside you is important as it makes your baby feel safe and secure in those early weeks and months.

It’s not realistic to expect your baby to sleep several times a day and wake only for feeds and to smile and coo. Some babies may behave like this but most don’t. By responding to your baby's cries, you are teaching her that the world is a safe place. This will help her to develop the skills to sleep through the night in the long term. As long as you understand this, you can prepare for it – and look forward to the time when she sleeps through the night!

Back to sleep

To keep your baby safe when she is sleeping, always put her to sleep on her back on a firm flat mattress. This decreases the risk of SUDI (Sudden unexplained death in infancy which used to be called cot death.)

Feet to foot

When you put your baby down in her Baby Box, moses basket, cradle or cot to sleep, always position her at the bottom – that is, with her feet at the foot of her cot – not with her head at the top. That way, she can’t wriggle down and get caught under her blankets.

Safe sleep

Your baby should sleep in the same room as you for every sleep. Speak to your midwife about where your baby will sleep during the day and night. Risks associated with bed sharing are the baby overheating, suffocating or suffering injury.  These risks are increased if you or your partner smoke, have recently drunk alcohol, have taken medication or drugs that could make you sleepy, or are very tired. You can find more information at Infant Sleep Information Source.

Room temperature

The ideal temperature for a baby’s room is between 16°C and 20°C. At this temperature, your baby will only need one or two layers of cellular blanket to keep her snug all night long. Make sure that her room is free from draughts.

Lighting and music

You might find that a night light is comforting in a baby’s room – it also means that you won’t trip over in the dark when you go in to check on her. For some babies, a gentle lullaby as she’s going off to sleep is soothing and helps to create an association with a sleep routine. 

Don't forget yourself

When you can, take time to have a relaxing bath before bed. Ask your partner or a friend to take over for an hour. You might still only get four hours' sleep before you're up for another feed, but at least you've had a little 'me time'.

Plagiocephaly

You may have heard about babies developing a persistent flat spot, either at the back of, or on one side of the head. This is known as plagiocephaly – it is cosmetic and will not affect your baby’s brain. It sometimes happens when babies lie in the same position for long periods. To help avoid this, make sure your baby has supervised ‘playtime’ on her tummy but never let her fall asleep like this. If you are worried and want more information ask your midwife or health visitor.

You should receive a copy of the NHS Scotland leaflet, Protect Your Baby’s Natural Headshape: Tummy Time to Play, Back to Sleep, either before or shortly after the birth of your baby.

Reducing the risk of sudden unexplained death in infancy (SUDI)

SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy) used to be called cot death, but this can happen during any sleep at any time, day or night. It’s rare, and we don’t yet know what causes it. We do know, however, that there are ways of reducing the risks. 

  • Always place your baby on her back to sleep, with her feet at the foot of the Baby Box or cot.
  • Keep your baby away from cigarette smoke – and remember that it can linger on clothes too.
  • Make your home smoke-free.
  • Place your baby with her feet at the foot of her cot so she can’t wriggle underneath her blankets.
  • Clear the Baby Box or cot of all bumpers, pillows and soft toys.
  • Make sure your baby doesn’t get too hot or cold. Check her temperature by feeling her stomach or the back of her neck – don’t go by her hands and feet as they will often feel cold.
  • Don't leave your baby to sleep in a car seat when not travelling, or in a bouncy seat. Your baby's head can roll forward if they are not sleeping flat which can limit the flow of air.

It's very dangerous for you or anyone else to fall asleep with a baby on a sofa or in an armchair.

Last Updated: 24 January 2018
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