A premature baby’s success at sleeping is vitally important to their health and growth. A premature baby is more likely to sleep more frequently although for shorter periods when compared to a full term baby. It may also take longer for your baby to sleep through the night.
While in the NICU or SCN, your baby may have benefited from being placed in the prone position (on their stomach) or being ‘nested’ with soft bedding. However, by the time your baby is ready for discharge, they will no longer need these interventions and should be put to sleep on their back, as babies who are born prematurely, of low birth weight, from a multiple birth or with neonatal health problems are at an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), compared to infants born at term.
SIDS is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby with no known cause. It is one of the leading causes of death in infants under 12 months of age and was previously known as ‘cot death’.
- Sleep baby on the back, never on the tummy or side
- Sleep baby with head and face uncovered
- Avoid exposing babies to tobacco smoke before birth and after
- Provide a safe sleeping environment at all times (safe cot, safe mattress, safe bedding)
- Sleep baby in their own cot or bassinette in the parents rooms for the first 6-12 months
- Breastfeed baby if you can
Providing your baby with a safe sleeping environment can reduce the risk of SIDS. Use the following guidelines from SIDS and Kids/Red Nose to ensure your baby is as safe as possible.
- Tuck in your baby’s bedclothes securely
- Position your baby’s feet at the bottom of the cot
- Do not put your baby on a water bed or bean bag
- Use a clean, firm, well-fitting mattress
- Quilts, doonas, duvets, pillows, soft toys and cot bumpers in the cot are not recommended
Prams, Bouncers & Cars:
- Always do up the restraints when baby is in a pram, stroller, bouncer or any other baby/toddler equipment. It can be dangerous if baby becomes tangled in loose restraints.
- Make sure the footrest on the stroller is strong and secure. A weak footrest may give way & cause baby to become trapped.
- Hats or bonnets should be removed when baby is taken inside.
- Avoid covering a pram or stroller with a blanket or sheet as it can create an unsafe and hot environment for baby with little airflow.
- Remember: Practice Safe Sleeping principles in all environments. It is not safe for a baby or child to sleep unattended in a pram, baby rocker or bouncer.
- Tummy Time is encouraged when baby is awake and supervised by an adult.
- Tummy Time is important to baby’s development as it strengthens muscles.
- Place baby on tummy or side to play.
- Move toys around to keep baby active and stimulated.
Wrapping or Swaddling:
Premature babies like full term babies feel more secure when they are swaddled. Many NICUs and SCNs promote swaddling of premature baby’s with their legs tucked up and hands brought together in front of them.
Some Benefits of Wrapping or Swaddling;
- Can help sooth and settle
- Can help babies sleep comfortably on their back reducing the risk of SIDS
- Reduce arm movements which can disturb sleep
- Hands can be wrapped close to a babies face so they can self comfort easily.
- The recommended fabrics are muslin or light cotton. Baby blankets or bunny rugs are not suitable as they may cause the baby to overheat
- Swaddling should be snug and secure. Allow for some movement especially around the legs so baby can bend their legs at the hips.
- Do not swaddle baby higher than their shoulders as the wrap could cover baby’s face and head
For more information on SIDS and safe sleeping please call the Red Nose 24/7 support line on 1300 308 307 or visit their website.