Many new parents really look forward to decorating their new baby’s nursery. It is one of the highlights of pregnancy – whether you are setting them up in their own nursery or even in your own room. You can be so creative with the themes and colors, all with the idea that your new little sweetheart will be sound asleep in their cot soon.

As exciting as this is, many parents feel anxious about creating a safe sleeping space for their baby. There seems to be so many opinions about what you should or shouldn’t do, and what your baby should and shouldn’t have. The secret is that it is all fairly simple. Creating a safe and comfortable sleeping space for your baby doesn’t have to be stressful, there are just a few things to remember when getting their space ready for their arrival.

Keep it simple

The safest way to arrange your baby’s sleep space is to keep it simple. Any clutter can actually be dangerous for the baby and pose a suffocation hazard. Here are some unnecessary items to keep out of their cot:

• Blankets
• Padded cot bumpers
• Loose sheets
• Stuffed animals

All of these items can cause suffocation, and should always be kept out of the cot. If you are desperate for a cot bumper and matching duvet, make sure to remove these when your baby is asleep. It is better to just avoid them altogether.

When it comes to choosing a mattress for the crib or cot, a firm mattress is best. This will give your baby the best support possible and also helps avoid any suffocation hazards as well. Remember to keep the mattress at the lowest level as babies can crawl and pull up on their cots from a young age, they might be able to climb out without you there.

Remove any items from around the cot as well, as your baby might grab toys or items close by and pull them into the cot.

Sleeping position

No matter what your mom or their mom tells you, your baby should always sleep on their back. Back sleeping helps to reduce the risk of SIDS, with babies being safest when sleeping on their backs, both during naps and at night.

Overheating

Many new parents worry that their baby will be cold at night sleeping alone in their cot, and often overcompensate for this by heavily dressing their baby and using too many blankets. Overheating is a contributor to SIDS, so you should really avoid it. Babies can regulate their temperature through their heads, so any beanies or hats used during sleep will prevent this and possibly cause them to overheat. Your baby needs the same amount of clothing to sleep that you do, and one blanket to keep them warm.

The recommended room temperature for babies is 60°F – 68°F (16°C – 20°C). However, your baby should be comfortable dressed to suit the temperature in the room. If you want to check if your baby is too warm, feel the back of their neck or their chest, these are usually the areas that indicate if your baby is too warm.

Sleep Sacks

A sleep sack is the best nighttime sleep accessory for your baby. While it keeps your baby warm and comfortable, it cannot be pulled up over the face, which could cause suffocation or overheating. Loose blankets and duvets should be avoided for babies under the age of 12 months old.

Sleep sacks come in different thicknesses so you can buy the one that matches your environment and climate. Thicker ones will keep babies warmer in winter, and thinner ones are perfect for warm summer evenings. Many sleep sacks come with recommendations on what your baby should wear when using a specific sleep sack, which helps put parents minds at ease.

Smoke-free environment

Secondhand smoke can be connected to a heightened risk of SIDS in infants. If you or someone in the house smokes, it is best to try and quit. If this isn’t an option, make sure that the smoke does not reach your baby’s room and it cannot drift in through the window while your baby is asleep.

Consistency

You need to be strict with yourself and make sure your baby sleeps in their cot or bassinet for every nap and nighttime sleep. It is so tempting to let them take a nap on the couch while you mop the floors, but this is dangerous for them. The safest place for them to be is in their clutter-free cot, even if it is just for a 20-minute nap in the afternoon. You will be able to hear them crying from the other room. If you have a large house, buy a monitor or camera that alerts you when there is movement.

Fresh and clean air

Certain indoor environmental factors like dust, odor, and toxins can cause the air around your baby to be polluted. Inside air can actually be more polluted than outside air, so you need to make sure the air in your baby’s room is clean and fresh. Placing an air purifier in your baby’s nursery will help to clean the air and reduce airborne contaminants. This could include mold, pollen, smoke or chemical irritants.

An excess of air pollution in your baby’s room could lead to respiratory irritation and illness , so clean air is best for a healthy baby.

Room-share

During the night, it is safer to have your baby room-share with you until the age of 6 months. This helps you keep an eye on them during the night and also encourages the continuation of breastfeeding, which actually helps the baby sleep for longer periods.

Even though your baby is in your room, they still need to be in their own sleeping space. Co-sleeping poses the risk of suffocation, especially with parents who are deep-sleepers. Sleeping in the same room also helps the baby regulate breathing, temperature, and nervous system reactions.

It can be really tempting in the midst of exhaustion to fall asleep while breastfeeding in bed, but you need to put your baby back into their cot to ensure their safety. You also deserve a good night’s sleep in your own bed.

Dimmed lights

A baby will experience better sleep in a dimmed room. Light signals daytime to a baby, so this might prompt them to wake up, even at the crack of dawn. A dimmed room will help your baby sleep longer periods, meaning you get to as well.

A night light isn’t necessary for a young infant as it isn’t likely that they fear the dark. If you need a night light to help you feed in the dark, make sure it is either dimmed or can be dimmed once you have finished feeding.

Sleep training

Many parents choose to sleep train their baby from a young age, and there are many different ways to do this. One way that is used is to let the baby cry themselves to sleep with the parent out of the room. This is so counterproductive and not safe at all. Left to cry, a baby might end up becoming distressed and even choking. It also creates a negative emotion around sleeping, making it difficult for them to fall asleep alone in the future. If you are sleep training, soothe your baby in their cot and gradually move further and further away as the sleep training progresses. This way you are still reassuring them that you are around, but they are learning to fall asleep on their own.

Creating a safe sleep space

Being pregnant is so exciting, there are so many things to prepare and seemingly so many things to buy. Don’t get carried away, babies are actually really simple, and simple is safest for babies. Don’t leave toys in the cot, they don’t need them when they sleep. Have a small play area in the room that can be used during play time, and which is easy to monitor by you as the parent.

Understanding what is necessary to create a safe sleep space, and being able to do so, is one of the best ways to give you peace of mind when your baby arrives home. A new parent finds themselves checking on their baby throughout the night, and a safe sleep space will give you that extra bit of reassurance that your baby is perfectly fine.