safe motherhood


Sleep patterns

The practice of babies sleeping in their own cot is relatively new. For thousands of years, babies slept in a bed with their mothers. Some parents still feel that this is the best arrangement, while others prefer to put their baby into a cot.

There are several advantages to 'co-sleeping':

• It makes breastfeeding easier and bottle-feeding cosier;
• You can check your baby easily;
• There is evidence that sleeping with your baby stimulates their breathing and regulates their temperature;
• It feels good!

But there are also disadvantages:

• Your baby may wake and feed more frequently;
• Their movements during the night may disturb you;
• If you're worried about squashing your baby, which is actually unlikely unless you have drunk too much alcohol or taken any medication that makes you sleepy, it may be difficult for you to sleep;
• You may feel that you never have any 'time off' from the baby;
• It can affect your sex life;
• It may take a long time (up to a year or more) before your baby is ready to sleep independently.

If you and your partner both agree that you want your baby to sleep with you, follow these simple safety precautions.

• Neither of you should smoke.
• Neither of you should take anything that makes you drowsy, for example, sleeping tablets or alcohol.
• Make sure that the bedcovers or pillows don't make your baby too hot, or cover their head. If they sleep under the duvet, your baby won't need to wear more than a nappy and vest. Alternatively, they can lie on top of the bedclothes, under a baby blanket.
• The bedroom should be well ventilated and not heated.

A good compromise is to put your baby in a three-sided cot by your bed. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (tel: 020 7222 8001) recommends that your baby sleeps in a cot beside your bed, rather than in your bed, for the first six months. See: Sleeping safely/cot death).

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