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28 Jan 2022

Are you making one of these nine mistakes when you put your baby to sleep?

From placing toys in the cot, to the location of your baby monitor, find out what to look out for and how to make sure your baby sleeps safely

Getting a baby to sleep comfortably is one of the most important things for any parent.

However, it's easy to focus too much on making your nursery cute, stylish or 'Instagram-friendly', and not enough on whether it's safe for your little one.

So whether they're sleeping in the same room as you in the early months, or on their own as they get older, read on for nine common mistakes parents make when setting up their baby's sleep space, and how to avoid them.

1.Filling your baby's sleep space with stuff

It can be very tempting to have items on or in your baby's Moses basket, crib or cot bed such as toys, cot bumpers or mobiles hanging above.

However, it's best to keep the place where your baby sleeps as clear as possible. This is to ensure that your baby cannot roll and squash their face into the items or pull them down (where they could be a choking or strangulation hazard).

2. Using the wrong bedding

Steer clear of any novelty style sleeping bags like the ones in the image above. Our baby sleeping bags investigation found many of these did not meet UK safety standards.

The Lullaby Trust recommends either a proper baby sleeping bag with the right tog level for your baby's age, or a cellular blanket.

Babies do not need a pillow in their sleep space and their presence has been found to increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Pillows can be introduced once your baby transfers to a toddler bed, which is from around 18 months to three years.

Whether using a sleeping bag or blanket, ensure that young babies are placed on their back in the 'feet to foot' position, meaning their feet are against the bottom of the cot or crib. If using a blanket, make sure it's tucked in and no higher than their shoulders so your baby can't pull it up over their face.

3. Using a positioner or lounger for sleeping

These pillow-like products are designed to hug your baby in a position that makes them feel cocooned and soothed.

However, don't be tempted to leave your baby there if they fall asleep as there have sadly been cases where babies have rolled over and suffocated in the lounger.

If you do find a sleep positioner is useful for you, ensure that you are always in the room when your baby is in it, and move them out of it and into a Moses basket, crib or cot as soon as they have fallen asleep.

4. The location of the baby monitor

A baby monitor is a popular product for parents to buy as it enables you to leave your baby in their sleep space while you go off and do something else around the house.

However, positioning is key and you should ideally not mount the monitor on your baby's sleep space or place the device so close that older babies or toddlers could reach up and pull it into the cot.

You should have your monitor placed at least one metre away from where your baby is sleeping, so you might need to experiment with positioning, especially with a video monitor.

Find the best audio, video or smart baby monitor for your needs in our baby monitor reviews.

5. The location of the cot

For the first six months your baby should sleep in the same room as you, either in a bedside crib, Moses basket or cot. After that, you can move them to their own room.

When doing so, don't position the cot beneath pictures or mirrors on a nearby wall in case they fall down, and keep it away from shelves or ledges for the same reason.

Any hanging power cables (including electrical leads from baby monitors) are a possible strangulation hazard, and the same goes for window blind cords, so make sure there are none nearby.

Don't place the cot too near a radiator and babies should not sleep in direct sunlight, either.

As your baby gets older, beware of anything that could be used as a grip or foothold for them to clamber out of the cot and fall onto the floor.

For more tips read our in-depth guide to positioning your cot bed.

6. Over-relying on tech

SIDS is a huge fear for parents, although infant deaths from the condition have fallen 84% since the 'Back to Sleep' awareness campaign launched in 1991.

While no manufacturer claims to produce a product that can prevent SIDS, there are gadgets available that purport to give parents more peace of mind if their baby stops moving.

These movement monitors are usually pads that go under the cot mattress and alert you if your baby has stopped moving after a period of time.

This can reassure some parents, but it can also increase levels of anxiety. There is no clinical evidence that any movement monitor tech can help with prevention of SIDS, so don't become over-reliant on them - parental intuition is effective, too.

7. Getting the room temperature wrong

room thermometer

Ideally, your baby should be sleeping in a room that is between 16-20°C.

Many baby monitors have temperature sensors built in that will tell you how hot or cold the nursery has become. Or, you could get a room thermometer.

Ensuring a baby is just the right temperature while they sleep is vital for safety. You can check their neck or chest (never use their hands or feet) to feel if they are getting clammy or chilly, and then remove or add layers accordingly.

8. Using an old or poorly fitting cot mattress

Woman inspecting a cot mattress

Many parents will shop for a cot mattress in the same way they do their own, but this is not advisable.

Babies need a much firmer mattress than most adults would like, largely because this ensures they can't sink into the foam and potentially suffocate themselves.

Check that your mattress meets all the latest safety standards and that it fits your cot snugly, with no gaps between the side and the frame that little fingers could get stuck in.

We advise against using a second hand mattresses because some can lose more than a quarter of their firmness over time.

Read more about choosing the best cot mattress in our guide and find out why you shouldn't buy a second-hand cot mattress.

9. Not securing nursery furniture to the wall

Finally, it can be tempting when setting up furniture in the nusery to miss one simple step, but it can have devastating consequences.

Our colleagues in the US, Consumer Reports, have been campaigning to warn parents of the dangers of not fixing furniture to the wall. This is due to reports of children climbing up cabinets and chest of drawers and then getting crushed under them when they fall forward.

Most flat pack furniture now comes with all the bits you need to attach furniture to the wall and stop it from being pulled over. You can also buy kits to do this online.