Getting everything ready for a newborn baby can be a mammoth task, and deciding on the safest way for your baby to sleep at night comes up pretty high on the priority list.
It’s normal for parents and caregivers to scroll for hours, trying to get through all of the safe baby bed options available. Especially as there are so many different types and everything from cots to moses baskets and cradles have their up- and downsides.
Even with all that research, worries about cot safety measures and whether babies could slip through the bars or as they get older, climb out of their cots still hang heavy. This, on top of regular baby sleep concerns such as SIDS, makes it a stressful time for all.
But as much as the ever-growing pool of answers around safe baby bed options often conflicts, there are tried and trusted measures which can reduce some of the major risks involved with sleeping babies. And once you know that your child is safely in the land of nod, you’re more likely to be able to sleep soundly too.
Is your baby’s bed a safe place for them to sleep?
We asked child sleep experts to weigh in on the safe ways to put your baby to bed at night. Here’s what they had to say about some of parents’ most pressing questions…
What’s the best temperature for babies to sleep in?
The Lullaby Trust recommends that your baby’s room should not be too hot or too cold, with the risk of SIDS increasing in babies that overheat. The charity’s experts suggest that a room temperature of 16 to 120°C should be ideal with the right bedding.
Norland Nanny and Maternity Nurse Louenna Hood agrees. She advises, “Use a room thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature to see if your little one needs an extra blanket on in cooler weather, or less layers and maybe even a fan in hotter spells.”
Having a thermometer will make sure that your baby’s room is kept at the perfect temperature and that you can adjust their environment if you need to. This one from John Lewis also acts as a nightlight, with an adjustable brightness level for you to get your baby to sleep in just the right conditions.
What should my baby sleep in?
When it comes to where your baby will sleep, many parents start with a basket or carrycot as they’re both portable and compact. There are loads of great moses baskets to choose from, with safe and affordable options just a few clicks away.
But whether you go for a moses basket or classic carrycot, our expert Louenna says, “When you lay your baby down, put their feet to the bottom of the bed so they can’t wriggle down and end up with covers over their head.
“Lay your baby on their back, and don’t have any soft toys in their bed which could fall over them.”
Although co-sleeping is a practice that some parents do, it’s largely warned against by some of the biggest baby charities due to the associated risks with SIDS. They instead advise that a baby sleeps in their own space, next to your bed.
These are some of the safest bed options for babies to sleep in…
Apart from price and personal taste, there are a couple of other things to think about logistically when choosing a cot. Does it have one or two sides that can be dropped using just the one hand? Otherwise it might be tricky to get down if you’re holding your baby.
It’s also important to look for a cot that has an adjustable base or mattress height as this will save you getting back pain from constantly bending over.
Loved by parents all around the world for one simple reason, they’re easy to manage and move around when a baby isn’t in them.
Most suitable for those under 15lb (7kg) and in homes where there aren’t any other children or animals who might be able to tip the basket, as they’re quite light.
As the Lullaby Trust suggests, “The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their own sleep surface, in the same room as you, for at least the first six months. A Moses basket or cot is a safe place for a baby to sleep.”
So in many cases, other factors such as the bedding you put them down in, can have a bigger impact on babies’ safety than whether you go for a cot or moses basket.
In the early weeks, cradles are ideal but again, they can be knocked or pushed by bigger children or pets.
Cradles also don’t always come with a stand or mattress, so be sure that you’re getting what you pay for.
As with all baby sleep products, it’s important to check that the cradle you’re looking to buy complies with British Standards. This means that it’s passed certain tests, so does not break or catch fire easily.
Much like a cradle, a crib is essentially a moses basket with a rocking stand.
They ideal if you’ve not got a lot of space to work with but as they come up relatively small, you might need to buy another bed for your baby to sleep in soon after.
For those little ones who have outgrown their first bed, but aren’t quite ready to graduate to a proper bed, there’s a cot-bed. It’s just like a cot but the sides often can be removed on one or both sides to give older toddlers and young children more space.
A travel cot is often a smaller, flimsier version of a cot that’s perfect for travelling or if you’ve got limited space in your bedroom. While they are safe, it’s important that if you’re getting one second hand, you consider the same safety standards as anything else.
As Gail Johnson, Education and Professional Development Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives says, “If you want to buy second-hand, that’s fine, but check that it’s clean and safe and also meets British safety standards and that it hasn’t been damaged. Likewise, if you buy a second-hand mattress, check that it fits the cot properly and that there are no gaps that could trap your baby.”
The Lullaby Trust also explains that as travel cot mattresses tend to be thinner and feel harder than those put in a permanent cot, “don’t be tempted to place folded blankets or a quilt under the baby to make them ‘more comfortable’.
“If you are very tight for space, you may have to consider re-arranging the furniture in the room to ensure that the travel cot isn’t against a radiator, in direct sunlight, and is out of reach of blind cords and hazards.”
Things to look out for when buying a cot
Depending on design, your baby may use their cot for up to three years. In that time, they’ll acquire a range of skills, such as rolling, climbing and jumping!
To ensure these vital skills can be developed in safety, their cot should have:
- Lockable castors, if it has any
- A close-fitting mattress. No more than two finger widths between it and the cot side.
- A drop-side mechanism that can be locked when fully raised.
- No horizontal bars to climb.
- Bars must be smooth and securely fixed.
- A mattress adjustment level, if it has one, that leaves 50cm (20in) between the top of the mattress and top of the cot at its lowest level and 20cm (8in) at its highest.
It also must comply with British Standards, with mark BS EN 716-1 which can be seen on new cots.
How to cover newborn baby at night
Whether the baby is newborn or a couple of months old, a newborn baby needs to covered safely. Our expert, Norland Nanny and Maternity Nurse, Louenna Hood says that she goes for a swaddle every time.
She tells GoodtoKnow, “They love the feeling of security, having just come from a very tight space in the womb. It also stops them scratching themselves and helps keep them settled when they startle in their sleep from the natural startle reflex that every baby is born with.
“Unless it is exceptionally warm, I tuck a blanket over the swaddled baby and tuck it firmly into the mattress to help keep baby safe and snug and stop the covers from coming loose.”
Covers should be traditionally made up, with sheets and blankets. But don’t use duvets, as they’re dangerous for the same reason as cot soft furnishings. If you’re worried about your baby not getting enough sleep, have a look at some of the sleep aids you can try and visit your GP.
If you want more help from baby expert Louenna, The Nanny Louenna app is now available to download from the App Store and Google Play stores with subscriptions starting from £4.99 a month.
Are baby sleeping bags safe?
Baby sleeping bags are convenient, as long as they’re designed for regular night use and are small enough to stop your baby from sliding down into it.
Eilis Mackie, Lead for Lactation and Infant Feeding at The Portland Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK, tells us all we need to know.
“Specially designed baby sleeping bags are a safe option for babies and there are lots out there. You can select a different sleeping bag size depending on the age of your baby, and there are also different tog levels available which can be interchanged depending on the season.
“Sleeping bags allow babies to wiggle freely whilst being securely contained within them. If they are the right fit for your baby, they are a great option as they cannot cover your baby’s head, even if they stir a lot whilst they sleep.
“In addition to this, they are effective when it comes to regulating your baby’s body temperature. This is because unlike loose blankets, they cannot double over and potentially cause overheating, or move away from your baby and cause them to get cold.”
The safest are those the baby wears like a garment, like Grobags, which have become really popular over the last few years and are recommended by the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID).
They’re designed to fit over the baby’s shoulders so they can’t slip down into them and risk their heads becoming covered and you don’t need to use any other bedding with them.
Useful guidelines for sleeping bags:
- Below 16°C: 2.5 tog sleeping bag plus vest under long-sleeved sleepsuit
- 16°C-19°C: 2-2.5 tog sleeping bag plus long-sleeved sleepsuit
- 20°C-24°C: 1-1.5 tog sleeping bag and vest
- 25°C plus: 0.5 tog sleeping bag and nappy, or just a vest alone
But our expert, Eilis Mackie warns, “It is important to make sure you have the best size and tog for your baby, so if you are unsure, speak to your midwife or a medical expert who can provide their advice.”
Getting the right mattress and bed clothes for your baby
It’s important to make sure you have everything your baby needs in their bed but in a safe way. Here’s what to use to make up your cot to make sure it is a safe bed for your baby.
How to choose the right mattress
There are so many choices of mattresses around: sometimes the mattress will come with the cot, other times it won’t and you’ll have to buy something new and they vary hugely in price.
As your baby will likely be spending around 70 per cent of their time in it, it’s important to get one that will keep your baby safe in bed. Here what to look out for…
Make sure that it fits correctly
The most important thing to make sure of when buying a mattress for you baby is that it fits exactly with no gaps around the edges. This is so there’s no risk of the baby getting stuck, as the Lullaby Trust says.
If you can put two fingers between the edge of the cot and the mattress then it doesn’t fit properly and it could be a safety hazard.
Check what the mattress is made of
Mattresses can be made of foam, springs, or organic and natural fibres and be anti-allergenic and anti-dustmite. It’s simply a matter of how much you want to spend and whether you want a basic mattress (foam cot mattresses start at about £20), or something a bit more advanced.
Look for the blue and white label that guarantees fire-safety standards.
The mattress should have a wipe-clean surface and washable cover. Keeping it well-aired and clean may not seem a safety issue, but think of the bugs! Apart from urine, there are dust mites. These are unavoidable, as they thrive in warm, moist conditions and feed off skin particles. Even children can lose half a pint of body moisture in a night and shed a pound of skin particles a year – much of it while sleeping – so there’s no avoiding them. But they’re really only an issue if your child is prone to respiratory problems such as asthma.
Buying second hand?
Bugs in the bed are, in part, why parents are often advised to buy a new mattress. But untold numbers of babies and children have slept on second-hand mattresses and thrived.
As long as it’s clean, don’t fret if you can’t afford new.
Do you need special lighting for a baby?
It’s a myth that you need special lighting in a baby’s nursery, normal lighting is fine and doesn’t make your baby bed any more or less safe. Gail from the Royal College of Midwives says, “As long as you have enough light to see what you’re doing when you’re looking after your baby, that’s fine. Obviously don’t have the light shining directly into the baby’s face.”
Nightlights are nice, but they’re not necessary for babies, they don’t get scared of the dark and won’t need them to help them sleep.
Also, blackout blinds aren’t a necessity either as babies can sleep through many things, even daylight.
Do you have to have a baby monitor?
While not essential to keep a baby safe in their bed, a baby monitor often makes parents and caregivers feel reassured as they’ll instantly know if the baby is crying or needs help.
A basic monitor that means you can hear your baby cry is a great idea but make sure the batteries are working and it’s somewhere that you can hear the baby.
Costs aside, the best way to choose a baby monitor is to decide how much reassurance you need that your baby is okay and pick the one that will make you feel the most secure.