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Bedtime

Every year babies and children die or are seriously injured following accidents in their bedrooms. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

By taking a few simple steps you can ensure your child’s bedroom is a safe environment, meaning that you’ll sleep a little sounder... even if it’s only for an hour or two at a time!

 

While supervision is important, we all know it’s impossible to watch over our children 24-hours-a-day. Thankfully there a few simple steps we can all take to help keep little ones safe:

  • Make sure that chests of drawers and shelving units are securely anchored to the wall as bulky, heavy furniture can seriously injure or even kill a small child if it falls on top of them. Remember, even if they’re not pulling themselves up or climbing yet, they soon will be. It’s best to plan ahead.
  • It’s amazing what toddlers can use as a ladder. Don’t make it easy for them by putting furniture near windows. All upstairs windows should have a lock, or, better still, (as a lock can make it hard to escape in a fire), a restrictor which lets windows open enough to allow fresh air in; but not children out.
  • As Leah's story tragically shows, children can easily get tangled up in dangling blind cords, which can choke them, potentially even killing them. The best advice is not to use blinds with looped cords in a child’s bedroom. If you have blinds with cords elsewhere in your home, wrap the cords up and keep them out of reach using a “cleat”.
  • If your child is under 24 months, use a safety gate to prevent access to the top and bottom of the stairs. Also try to keep your stairs free from clutter.
  • Nappy sacks like other plastic bags, can be dangerous. They might not fit over a baby’s head, but if they go over their mouth and nose they can stop them from being able to breathe. If you are going to use them, find a place for them that is not in reach.
  • If there’s a rug in your child’s room taping down the underside can stop a fall.
  • Bedtime can also be medicine time for poorly little ones. Lock it away afterwards so it’s not in reach - even if it does have a child resistant cap.
 

A safe cot

No one likes to think that the cot they’re putting their baby to sleep in could put them at risk, but with older cots in particular, they could be doing just that. Thankfully there are some simple things to remember when it comes to choosing a cot and setting up your nursery.

  • Keep babies’ cots free from clutter like soft toys, cot bumpers and soft, pliable bedding. These can mould around a baby’s face and lead to suffocation.
  • Buy a new cot mattress, or - if using a second-hand mattress - carefully check that it's clean, dry and free from cracks or tears. It should fit the cot snugly, with no gaps.
  • Choose a cot that meets the British safety standard (BSEN716) as it will have been designed to reduce the number of accidental deaths due to suffocation and strangulation.
  • Cots with bars on all four sides can allow air to circulate freely. The bars should be vertical. If they are horizontal your baby could use them as a ladder to climb out. They should also be no more than 6.5cm apart so your baby can’t get stuck between them.
  • Second hand cots should be approached with caution. Those from before 1973 may contain lead based paint. If there is a drop-side mechanism, check it works properly. Also look out for any old stickers or decorations that could come loose and become a choking hazard.
  • Babies are less able to control their temperature so the cot shouldn’t be near a radiator or sunny window.
  • Ensure your child is the right age for the cot, bed or other sleep product you wish to use. Kids’ 2-in-1 (combination) portable airbeds/sleeping bags, which are often promoted for holidays, are not suitable for babies due to the risk of suffocation. Always check the labels and follow the safety instructions.

Every year, we hear tragic stories about babies who’ve suffocated in their beds. Yet these awful accidents don’t need to happen. When it comes to putting our baby to bed, there are some simple measures we can take to ensure our children are safe. That way, we can all sleep better at night.

  • Putting babies at the bottom of the cot (so their feet touch the end) can stop them squirming down and suffocating under bedding.
  • Cot bumpers can do far more harm than good. Not only can the ribbon strangle kids, the bumper itself can be used by children to climb out of the cot. All-in-all, you’re better off without them.
  • Never use a pillow with a baby less than 12 months old, there is no benefit to baby and it could cause suffocation.
 

"He’s too young to be left on his own so we’re always with him... until he’s finally in bed.”

Owen, Alden’s Dad
  • While we know it’s impossible to watch a child all the time, you should still never leave a baby unattended on a raised surface, such as a bed. It only takes a moment for them to roll off, and the results can be devastating.
  • Electric blankets or hot water bottles can be bad news for babies. If you are worried about the cot being too cold you could use one that is removed before the baby goes in.
  • Babies who overheat are at an increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). They can get too hot because the room is too hot, or because they have too much bedding or clothing. The ideal room temperature is between 16 and 20ºC.
  • The best way to keep babies safe when they’re sleeping is in a cot of their own. Some babies have been accidentally suffocated by their parents while co-sleeping/bed-sharing. The risk increases if you’ve been drinking alcohol, smoking or taking drugs, or if your baby was born prematurely.
  • Because of the risk of suffocation, use blankets or a lightweight sleeping bag (without a hood) for children under 12 months old, rather than a duvet or quilt.
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