Safe Baby Sleeping Bags
In the years of working with sleeping bags I’ve seen zips and poppers that come off, necks and arm holes that are too big (allowing babies to fall into them and climb out), sleeping bags with Velcro on them (allowing them to become attached to mattresses) — these are just a few unsafe examples. I have experienced none of these problems with the safe sleeping bags I currently recommend.
· Never use a baby sleeping bag made from a stretch material such as jersey.
· Never use a baby sleeping bag with a zip down the side.
· Never use a sleeping bag with poppers or buttons on the shoulders.
· Never tuck the sleeping bag in under the cot mattress.
· Before using a sleeping bag make sure it has fitted neck and arm holes and check that your toddler cannot not slip into the bag.
· Make sure the sleeping bag has a front zips that zips downwards to close.
There a few reasons why a baby sleeping bag should always have a zip down the front, one is it helps parents and careers remember to put the baby on their back to sleep safely. If a career is putting a baby to bed lets say for example a grandmother rocks a baby to sleep and then tried to pop the baby to bed in a front Zip sleeping baby research shows she she will put the baby on its back but if the zip is at the side the grand mother might put the baby on its tummy and then zip the sleeping bag up.
With a side zip parents and careers often forget to zip the sleeping bag up fully and then the neck is too big and the baby can slip inside the sleeping bag if the sleeping bag zips down or is a double ended zip this is not going to be a risk.
Why no shoulder poppers also know as press studs? This is because they can pop open or be left open again resulting in the baby slipping into the sleeping bag.
Side zips and older toddlers parents and careers often open the bottom of the zip so the child can walk and this can result in the child tripping and falling which is dangerous and opening the sleeping bag can also make it a risk if around open fires.
Why no stretch material such as jersey? This is because at first or after some use the neck can stretch and the baby can slip into the sleeping bag but some babies and toddler climb out of the neck as well and this means they are in the cot with a quilt like loose peace of bedding and this is unsafe.
How to choose the best cot for your baby
So often we are told that you get what you pay for. Before you go and shell out over a thousand dollars for your baby's cot you may wish to reconsider this. An expensive baby cot is not always the best choice, as my investigations revealed.
I have looked at just about every cot on the Australian market and have been very disappointed with what I've found.
Make sure you take your tape measure with you when shopping for a cot. It is very important to look at the height from the base that the mattress sits on to the top of the cot rail - the rail that moves up and down.
Some of the more expensive cots on the market have only 25 inches (about 63.5cm) from the base to the top of the rail. When you put a mattress in the cot the height, of course, is reduced even more. Some cot companies sell really thick mattresses and the height from the top of the mattress to the top of the rail is as little as 20 inches. This is dangerous because before too long your baby is a toddler and can jump or fall out of these cots.
Another thing to look for when purchasing a cot is to make sure it has all four sides open. It is very important that the air can circulate freely around your baby while they sleep. Some babies push all their bedding to the end of the cot and jam their face up against it. Most babies don't come to any harm doing this but an open ended cot is preferable because the air can still get through the slats. In a solid ended cot the baby will get hot and sweaty doing this.
Think twice before being talked into buying a cot that turns into a toddler bed. Not that there's anything wrong with them, just don't let that be the reason for making your choice. There are several reasons why taking the side off your toddler's cot is not a feature I would recommend you use, and these are:
By the time your baby is a toddler you may have another baby or a baby on the way so you will want your older child to graduate to a normal bed and free the cot up for the baby.
A toddler needs to be gradually introduced into sleeping in a normal bed. Taking the sides off a cot suddenly can cause a toddler to feel insecure. You might find your toddler sleeps in the cot-bed for a few nights but then starts to cry or get out. Or you might find your toddler is happy in the cot-bed for 6 weeks and then decides to test the boundaries and gets out.
Or you might simply want to follow my transition from cot-to-bed advice, which is impossible to follow if you have taken the sides off the cot.
To help your child make the transition to a new big bed, set it up in your toddler's room and to help her feel secure, sit on it with her at different points throughout the day and read stories. Once she is comfortable with the new bed as a place to sit and hang out then suggest she have her daytime sleep in it. Point out that she is a big girl now and this means that she should sleep in a big bed like Mummy, Daddy, siblings or friends she may have.
If she's not ready on the first day, try gentle persuasion but if that meets strong resistance let her go back to the cot and try again the next day or so. Now picture trying to do this with a cot-bed - you would be putting the sides on and off.
Make the big bed a fun place - not somewhere for punishment or scary stories. Once she has had a good daytime sleep in the new bed, allow her to start having her night-time sleeps in it as well.
I suggest the cot stays in your child's room and is available for her to use for at least 8 weeks after she starts to sleep in the bed at night. The reason I say this is, in my experience, most children are happy in the new big bed for 6 weeks and then they decide to test the boundaries. You will need the cot available to get over this hurdle. Again, if you are using a cot-bed, this means back on with the sides.
When she decides she is ready to sleep in the big bed in the day and at night as well, you will need to explain to her she can try and sleep in the big bed but she only has one chance. Explain to her if she gets out of bed you will be putting her in the cot. Tell her if she gets out of bed at any time, day or night, you will see this as her asking you to put her in the cot. Then if she gets out of bed you need to follow through with this and pop her in the cot. Tell her it's her choice if she wants to be a big girl or a baby.
You can see from all this that a cot-bed is just not going to work well using my approach.
Below is a picture of suitable cot and it passes my test. The side is 29 inches from base to the top of the rail, which is 4 inches higher than some of the more expensive cots on the market. This is a big difference to a toddler.
When buying a cot there are also recommendations for choosing the mattress that goes in it.
A safe mattress is one that is:
- The right size for the cot
- New, clean and in good condition.
The mattress must have no more than a 25mm (1 inch) gap between the mattress and the cot sides and end. A baby or toddler can easily get stuck if there are larger gaps between a poor fitting mattress and cot sides. This is especially dangerous if their face or neck is restricted in anyway. Remove all plastic packaging from the mattress and always make sure the waterproof mattress protector is strong and well fitting.
A soft mattress can increase the risk of sudden unexpected infant death if a baby rolls over onto the tummy. Never put soft bedding, including sheep or lamb skins, under the bottom sheet as this makes the sleeping surface too soft. A test you should perform to see if the mattress is firm enough is to push your hand down on the mattress. If, when you remove your hand, you can see your handprint then the mattress is too soft. If you cannot see your handprint then the mattress is likely to be firm enough and safe for your baby.
A tea tree filled mattress, a pillow, cushion or sofa is NOT a safe mattress as they are too soft and increase the risk of sudden unexpected infant death.
Related reading material
Click on the link to view related articles in the Save Our Sleep Store.
- Goodbye Cot, Hello Bed
- Nightime Visitors
- Night Wandering, Keeping your toddler in their big bed
- Night Frights
- The Nursery
Triggers for sleep problems
In this article I have decided to write about the most common things I have found to cause sleep problems in the first 18 months of a childs life. Over the years I have found all sorts of triggers for sleep problems such as hunger, dummy use, rocking a baby to sleep, allowing a baby to start falling asleep while feeding, being cold at night, the bedtime ritual the parents are using to get the baby to sleep and things such a going away or moving house.
So when do these problems start to show?
My experience indicates that babies don't start to surface between sleep cycles (the process of drifting between light and deep sleep) until they reach about eight weeks. Newborn babies can be aided to sleep by sucking on a dummy or feeding or having a parent rock them to sleep and they will still sleep for long periods, however at about eight weeks daytime sleeps change. If you have aided your baby to sleep, you will notice that she will only catnap during the day. This is fine at first because she will be sleeping great stretches of time at night however at about five to six months this will suddenly change. The baby who is aided to sleep will suddenly start waking at night when night time sleep cycles start.
Usually a baby of six months will show the first signs of a self-settling problem by waking at about 5:00am. Then she will begin to wake at 11:00pm, and by the time your baby is one year old she will be waking at 9:00pm, 11:00pm, 1:00am, 3:00am and 5:00am! The sooner you solve the waking problem the better.
- Is your baby hungry?
- Rocking your baby to sleep
- Feeding a baby to slumber
- Cold at night
- Moving house
Is your baby hungry?
Some babies catnap during the day or wake up at night because they are hungry. To be sure your baby is not hungry you need to feed your baby until she is full. This means if you are breastfeeding you need to feed your baby both breast until they have stopped feeding. However if you are following Tizzie's early routines you only feed your baby for a set amount.
If your baby is bottle-fed you need to feed her until she has had enough there should always be milk left in the bottle after a feed and you should never give your baby a set amount. As explained in the bottle feeding article or in the Save Our Sleep book on page 30.
If your baby is over four months and showing sign's of catnapping and waking again at night your baby may be ready for solids. If your baby is over six months I suggest you start solids. However if your baby is between four and six months you need to look at the pro and cons to starting solids. These are explained in my crash course in weaning article and in the Save Our Sleep book on page 111. Please take into account when making your decision on when to start solids that the world health organisation (WHO) says you should not start solids until at least four months and if possible six months. Click here to visit the WHO website.
If your baby has been on solids for more than seven days you should be feeding your baby two courses of solids at each meal until she is full and turns her head away. Some babies stop eating because they are bored not full so it is good to give them two tastes at each meal.
The most common trigger I have found for sleep problems is the dummy. In my experience, dummies cause 90% of all sleep problems in children under 18 months old.There are three main reasons why a baby with a dummy wakes more frequently than one without.
1. A baby with a dummy seems to find it harder to achieve a deep sleep, their intermittent sucking seems to disturb their sleep pattern.
2. A baby who goes to sleep with a dummy will wake up expecting to suck, but if the dummy has fallen out the baby will shout out for you to come and put it in again. Unfortunately, by the time you may decide to go in and replace the dummy, your baby is so awake, it is harder for her to get back to sleep, even when you have replaced the dummy.
3. I believe the constant sucking on the dummy tricks the body into thinking there is food coming, which causes them to digest their milk too fast and makes them hungrier than a baby without a dummy.
Dummy use appears to reduce the risk of SIDS, however I feel when you look at the side effects of using a dummy the reasons to not use a dummy outweigh this fact. One major reason is babies who suck on dummies tend to be more prone to ear infections. Ear infections may bring on high fevers and the use of antibiotics which both have side effects of there own.
Rocking your baby to sleep
Rocking a baby to sleep is also an aid which you don't want your baby to start to rely on to get to sleep.At first you again like with the dummy will not see the problem. You will rock your new baby to sleep and your baby will still sleep for long periods. But as with the dummy, when your baby starts to surface between sleep cycles the rocking will be needed again to get your baby back to sleep.
I believe it is unfair to start a habit you are not going to continue. Let's say you find rocking your new baby to sleep an easy option. What happens when your baby gets too heavy for you to rock? Yes you can go out and buy a rocking chair and sit in it while you rock your older baby to sleep, but remember when your baby is 12 months old you will be getting up four of five times to rock her back to sleep between sleep cycles.
Yes this could work, but what happens if you have a second baby before your first starts to self-settle? What happens if your 20 month old toddler and your 4 week old baby both need rocking at the same time? As you can see, at some point you will have to stop the rocking. But at what age will your new baby understand why you have stopped rocking her to sleep? This is why I believe you should never start a habit such as rocking which will trigger a sleep problem.
Feeding a baby to slumber
Feeding a baby to sleep is another trigger I come across quite often. The parents I talk to don't even realise this is happening. When I ask parents if they put their baby down awake, they generally believe they do. However, what they don't realise is that while their baby may look like she is awake, she has already begun reaching that heavy-eyed, falling asleep stage while feeding.
In reality, she has been aided into slumber. Therefore, when she wakes during the night, she wants that same help to get back to sleep. I ask these parents to bring everything in the bedtime routine forward by 20 minutes and have some play time before they put there baby to bed. Often just making this little change and asking the baby to settle from wide awake causes the night waking to disappear.
Cold at night
This is a topic which comes up frequently for me and I seem to spend a lot of time telling parents their baby's are not wearing enough at night. I have spent the last three years mostly doing my home visits in Australia, but for thirteen years before that I was in the UK. The thing that amazes me most is the difference in how the two sides of the world dress their babies at night.
In the UK parents put a lot more clothing on their babies at night, and I believe the temperature of their homes is actually warmer than the night time temperature in most of the homes I visit in Australia. In the UK they have a different type of central heating which keeps the house at a more even temperature throughout the night.
I am not sure if it is even the warmth the babies like or if it is that with more layers on they feel cosier and more secure. But I do know that the extra layers can stop babies from waking at night.
I often go on home visits to homes where the parents are convinced their baby could not possibly be cold. As an experiment I put their baby in a baby safe sleeping bag which are available in the Save Our Sleep® store. Over and over again just trying this extra layer helps the baby to sleep all night. I seem to have to tell parents over and over again that I believe their baby's night waking is due to coldness but over and over again the parents just won't believe it can be that simple. If your baby is cold at night, the waking normally happens at about 4:00am.
Moving house is very common in today's society but it does not have to trigger a sleep problem with your baby or toddlers sleep patterns. The most important thing you need to do when moving house is make your baby or toddler, feel as safe and secure as possible. The easiest way to achieve this is to have your baby or toddler in a good feeding and sleeping routine. Baby's and toddlers like to know what and when things are going to happen.
It is very important that your baby or toddler is in the same bed in the new house. So if you are not going to be able to set up the usual cot by the time your child has to have its first sleep in the new house, I recommend you put your baby in a travel cot and that you have had your baby or toddler sleep in it for the four nights prior to the move. It is a good idea to take your baby or toddler for a tour of the new house and explain to her where everyone's room is and where you will be sleeping.
It is very important that your baby or toddlers routine is the same coming up to bedtime. If you usually give your baby her last feed then you need to do this. I know you may have an extra set of hands around that could do it for you but in the long run it will go smoother if you give your baby or toddler the normal attention at bedtime. Remember if bedtime goes well, you will have lots of uninterrupted hours to unpack.
Your baby or toddler may want to test the rules and boundaries in this new house. It is very important you give your baby or toddler clear messages that the rules are the same. This will make them feel safer. If, for example, you put your baby or toddler to bed on the first night and your baby or toddler got very upset and it was obvious to you they were emotionally upset, you should go and get her up and bring her out of the bedroom and calm and comfort your baby or toddler before putting her back to bed.
Whatever you do, don't go in and then walk straight out, as this is controlled crying and I feel it will make your baby or toddler more emotional.
If you are moving interstate and there is a one hour time difference, then you should follow my daylight savings advice. If you are moving to a country with a much bigger time difference then you should follow my traveling with a baby advice. Remember moving abroad is easier that going on holidays as you wont have to adjust your baby again when you get home.
If you feel a dummy or rocking could be triggering your baby's night waking then I suggest you put your baby on my routine for your baby's age and after following the routine for four days stop using the dummy or stop rocking your baby to sleep. Instead use my recommended settling techniques for your baby's age to get your baby to sleep. But the routine is the most important part of transforming your baby from a bad to good sleeper.
How much sleep does a baby need?
Sleep is a skill we need to learn - you can't just turn it on and off - and it is one of the first skills you need to teach your baby. One in three children, under the age of five, do not have this skill; and out of these children, 30 per cent are said to have serious sleep problems. When adults get tired they tend to slow down, but when a child or baby gets tired the opposite occurs, and they will speed up and become hyperactive.
An interesting study published in BBC News Online (24th April 2004), suggests that sleep problems in babies could lead to drug problems in the teenage years. This is the first study to look at the relationship between children's sleep problems and substance abuse in later life. Researchers from the University of Michigan claim that early sleep disruption does not mean a child will have substance abuse problems as a teenager, but that it could be a 'marker' for later issues. This is one more reason that parents should focus on healthy sleep habits for their children.
Everyone is different in the amount of sleep they need, but the table below gives the average amount that I recommend.
Some babies will sleep a lot more, and other's slightly less.
|Age||Total hours in|
a 24 hour period
during the day
|Newborn||15 to 17 hours||10 11 hours in 2 5 hour blocks||5 to 6 hours||3 to 5|
|4 weeks||15 to 17 hours||10 - 11 hours (broken for feeds)||5 to 6 hours||3 to 4|
|3 months||16.45 hours||12 hours (broken for feeds)||4.45 hours||2 sleeps and 1 nap|
|5 months||16.15 hours||12 hours (broken for feeds with the dreamfeed)||4.15 hours||2 sleeps and 1 nap|
|7 months||16 hours||12 hours||4 hours||2 sleeps|
|9 months||15 hours||12 hours||3 hours||2 sleeps or 1 longer sleep and 1 nap|
|12 months||14 hours and 30 minutes||12 hours||2 hours and 30 minutes||1 sleep or 1 longer sleep and 1 nap|
|18 months||14 hours and 15 minutes||12 hours||2 hours and 15 minutes||1 sleep|
|2 years||14 hours||12 hours||2 hours||1 sleep|
|3 years||13 hours||12 hours||1 hour||1 nap|
Please note that a sleep is when your baby sleeps for more than one sleep cycle; a nap is when your baby only sleeps for one sleep cycle or less.