A seven-month-old baby was found dead in the master bedroom after getting trapped in the gap between her mattress and the bed rail last year in Singapore. At least one similar case with a product bought online has also occurred this year in Malaysia. These unfortunate sleep-related infant deaths continue to happen globally despite warnings by experts.
These incidences may not be common, but do not assume that it will not happen. Many parents are still unaware of safe sleep practices for infants and babies. The availability of various untested baby sleep equipment or products in the market, especially online, further worsens the problem. It’s important to keep these safe sleep tips in mind when putting your baby to sleep.
The ABCs of safe sleep: The safest way for your baby to sleep is Alone, on his Back, in a safe Crib, cradle or bassinet. Bed-sharing (or sleeping with your baby on the same bed) is a no-no, but room-sharing is recommended, especially for the first six months. Place your baby’s crib close to your bed so that he is within view and reach in case something should happen. If you need to feed your baby on the bed, transfer him into his crib when you are ready to go to sleep.
Firm sleeping surface: Use a firm mattress and fitted mattress sheet that does not conform to the shape of the infant’s head when the infant is placed on the surface. Keep the infant’s sleep environment clear of toys, soft/loose mattress sheets, larger-than-needed blankets, or overcrowding of pillows and bolsters. A large percentage of infants who die of SIDS are found with their head covered by loose bedding.
Proper sleep apparel: Dress your baby in light sleep clothes, nothing too thick that you yourself would not wear in the same temperature. Remove any strings or ties from his pyjamas and don’t cover his head. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you and make sure your baby is not too hot or cold. Overheating can increase the risk of SIDS.
Beware of unsafe sleep equipment: There are many types of sleep equipment available in the market; some may not be suitable for infants and not meet safety standards or may not have gone through proper testing. For example, portable bed rails, like the one mentioned in the beginning of the article, should not be used for children under two years old because of the risk of entrapment and strangulation. Bumper pads, sleep positioners, inclined or in-bed sleepers and hammocks may also pose as safety risks to infants.
Keep it hazard-free: Keep the sleep area away from hazards such as dangling cords, electric wires and window-covering cords because these may present a strangulation risk. Make sure any hanging toys (i.e. crib mobiles or gyms) are securely fastened and out of your baby’s reach.
Sleeping on the move: Sitting devices, such as car seats, strollers, swings, infant carriers and infant slings are not recommended for routine sleep, particularly for young infants. Avoid sleeping on a couch, sofa or in an armchair with your baby.
Click here for a more in-depth guide to safe sleep for infants.