“Which sleeping position is best?”
“I’m a bit confused over how I should lay Ben down at night as people keep telling me different things. What’s the best way to do it safely?”
Emma Berry, 31, from Devon, mum to Ben, 2 months
“It’s really important to lay him down on his back, on a firm, flat mattress, with his feet facing the foot of the crib,” explains Judith Howard, helpline adviser for The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths. “Never put him down on his side or tummy, as this will make his body temperature rise and encourage him into a deeper sleep, which could make it more difficult to rouse him,” she says. Placing him on his back also reduces the chances of cot death.
If he wriggles around in the night, then don’t worry about checking and repositioning him, just be sure to start every sleep with him lying on his back.
“Give him lots of tummy time during the day when he’s awake,” says Judith. “But remember, play on front, sleep on back.”
“My baby thrashes around at night. Is it normal?”
“Tamsin is generally a good sleeper, but sometimes she moves around a lot, especially in the hot weather. She throws her arms and legs around but her eyes are closed and she appears to be asleep. Is she ok?”
Helen Young, 26, from Surrey, mum to Tamsin, 9 months
It can be worrying watching your little one thrash and move around during the night, but more often than not, she’s just dreaming, repositioning and generally squirming around like adults do.
“It’s best to try and ignore these movements,” suggests Megan Faure, author of Baby Sense. “But if you’re looking for ways to calm her, introduce swinging at the park, or in a baby swing at home in the afternoon, as the rhythm can soothe her before bed.”
You might also want to try baby massage which will help regulate her sleep patterns and keep her calm for the night ahead. Another good trick if you’re worried about her thrashing around is to use a baby sleeping bag which will keep her legs from flailing about. When buying one, remember the lower the TOG for the warmer the weather, and most manufacturers will mark this on the product.
If she continues to squirm around at night, the problem could be worms. Check her nappy and her bottom for any small wriggly worms, and visit your GP for advice if you find any.
“Why does my baby make strange noises while sleeping?”
“Sophie whimpers when she’s sleeping and it can sound a bit bizarre. The first night we spent on the ward in hospital all the babies were quiet at night, except for Sophie. She’s now nearly 6 months and still sometimes does it on and off. What’s going on?”
Susan Cran, 36, from Hertfordshire, mum to Adam, 13, Anna, 11, and Sophie, 25 weeks
“Babies can be very noisy when they’re sleeping – this is completely normal,” says Megan. Common sounds include snuffles, grunts, moans and even – in older babies – calling out. These noises tend to occur more if your little one is a particularly light sleeper.
“Mums and dads do worry about strange noises, and often end up over-responding – picking their baby up, feeding her and fussing, when it’s really not a problem,” adds Megan. “The best thing to do if she’s moaning or making noise during the night, is to wait and see if she settles herself, which she may well do in no time at all.”
If you get up to feed during the night, keep everything as calm and quiet as possible, with minimal lighting. This will help soothe her back into a longer, deeper sleep, which should soften her moans and whimpers.
“Can my baby sleep on the sofa?”
“Jack loves cuddles and sometimes dozes off while we’re sat down together. I never like to wake him so sometimes let him sleep in my arms. Is this dangerous?”
Lara Hill, 29, from Barnet, mum to Jack, 4 months
“There’s never a safe time for a baby to fall asleep in your arms on the sofa or in a chair,” explains Judith Howard. “This is because he might snuggle down to lie on his tummy, and in this position he’s more likely to fall into a deep sleep and overheat as he’ll have your body heat warming him.”
There’s also the risk of you falling asleep too, which is dangerous as you could crush him. “It’s common for babies to fall asleep in their mums’ arms after feeding. So the best thing you can do after you’ve fed and winded him is put him straight down in his crib if he seems tired,” suggests Judith. “This way he’ll be in a safe position for a sleep, and you’ll also get into a good routine and not in habit of him lying on you snoozing.”
“Is it ok to use a dummy?”
“Ashley loves his soother and I’ve started putting him down to sleep with the dummy to help him settle. Sometimes it falls out and I find it next to him in the cot in the morning. Is this safe or should we stop him using it at night?”
Amber Jenkins, 33, from Cardiff, mum to Ashley, 7 months
Research by The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) suggests using dummies during the night can reduce your baby’s risk of cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), so if he’s happy to take one, then go for it.
“But ideally, parents should wait until breastfeeding is well established before using a dummy so it doesn’t interfere with your baby’s ability to feed,” advises Judith Howard. “Don’t worry if you check in the night and the dummy is out of his mouth and in the crib with him. This won’t do him any harm at all, and there’s no need to keep putting the dummy back in his mouth during the night if he’s sleeping fine without it.”
“How hot should my baby be?”
“When Isabel is asleep, I’m obsessed with the temperature in the room, and never know whether I‘ve wrapped her up too much or not enough for the hot nights?”
Tammi Brown, 23, from Staines, mum to Isabel, 24 days
Keep the temperature of the room between 16ºC and 20ºC, and in warmer weather, have the windows open and the blinds down so as the sun moves across the room sunlight won’t creep in. A fan is fine to use, but keep it at an angle so it’s not directly pointed at the cot and making your baby too cold.
“There’s no specific amount of blankets for each season, but use your common sense and check your baby regularly,” says Judith. “Put two fingers on her tummy or the back of her neck, and if they’re clammy, she’s too warm. Dress her in a vest and nappy during warmer weather, and lay her on a cotton sheet when you put her to bed so she doesn’t overheat.”
“Does my baby sleep too much?”
“Sometimes I worry that, in comparison to other babies, Barny sleeps a lot during the day. At times I wake him because I think it will disrupt his night sleep but then I wonder if maybe he should just be left to sleep as much as he likes. Which is best?”
Linzi Hanscomb, 27, from Surrey, mum to Barny, 8 months
“As a rule, babies don’t sleep too much, in fact you might be surprised just how much they actually need,” says Megan Faure. “For example, a newborn can only manage to be awake for 45 minutes before needing to go back to sleep.”
In the early days it can seem that all he’s doing is sleeping in short periods, waking for a feed and then sleeping again, but this is nothing to worry about. With babies older than 4 months, the pattern changes to between one and three longer daytime naps a day, and a 10 to 12 hour stretch at night (good news for tired mums!).
“Lots of sleep is usually nothing to worry about,” says Megan. “However, if he’s sleeping all day and not so well at night, he might have his days and nights muddled up. If this is the case, try and wake your baby every four hours during the day to feed him.”
“Can I leave toys in my baby’s cot?”
“Gemma has so many soft toys, and usually has her favourite teddy in the cot with her. Is it safe to have things in with her and what should we avoid?”
Jenny Miles, 29, from London, mum to Gemma, 4 months
“Avoid cuddly toys in the cot with her as they could easily fall onto her in the night,” says Judith. “Be sure that the bedding is tucked in tightly under the mattress and don’t have any pillows, cushions or a duvet in with her, as any extra bedding or toys can cause her to overheat and restrict her breathing.”
For the same reasons, it’s advisable never to put your baby down to sleep on top of a cushion or pillow. If you’re looking for ways to add some excitement to your little one’s nursery, a mobile on the outer side of the crib is a safe addition and will help keep her interest.
Dos and Don’ts for a safe night’s sleep
- DO Ditch the hat. Never put your baby to sleep with a hat on as she could easily overheat in her sleep.
- DON’T Smoke. Keep cigarette smoke away from your baby. It will affect her breathing and general health.
- DO Have your baby in your bedroom. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths says the safest place for your baby to sleep is in her own cot or crib in your bedroom for at least the first six months.
- DON’T Co-sleep with your baby. If you share a bed with your baby there’s a risk of you smothering her as she could get stuck between your body and the wall, or even fall out of the bed, so always put her in her own cot.