One of the most exciting aspects of preparing for a new baby is organising their nursery. Thinking about where your baby will eventually sleep and what they are going to sleep in takes some planning and discussion. Practical factors such as the size of your house and the number of children will determine whether the new baby will have their own room, or need to share with an older sibling. There is too much individual variation in families and homes to say what the best option is. Parents generally make their own decisions based on what will work in their home and what suits their own family.
No matter how much planning is done though, most parents want their newborn to sleep in the same room as they do. The parent’s bedroom is actually recommended as the safest place for babies to sleep for the first 6 to 12 months of their life. Placing your baby’s cot or bassinette next to your bed will allow you to see them and feel reassured they are safe. Parents and their newborns are not meant to be physically separated and they need to be close to each other. After 12 months, most parents are ready to move their baby into their own room or nursery.
This is really about personal choice. Some parents prefer the size of a bassinette because it takes up such a small amount of space and is portable. Mothers particularly, can feel a bassinette creates a cosier sleeping atmosphere for their small baby. Other parents like to use a cot from birth and avoid the inevitable transition to one when the baby is around 3-4 months old.
The major considerations are the safety aspects of both. If a cot or bassinette has been handed down in a family and has not been bought new, it needs to be checked as safe so it does not pose a risk of harm. There is an Australian Standard Safety Requirement checklist which outlines the specific safety requirements for cots (see web-link below). Currently there is no Australian Safety Standard for bassinettes in Australia.
Bassinettes look sweet, though parents need to be careful about using bumpers, ribbon ties and lots of loose bedding in them. Those that have a rocking function can be risky, especially with young toddlers in the house. Bassinettes with wheels need to have a locking mechanism as well.
Swaddling or wrapping has always been a good way of calming young babies. It helps them to feel secure and contains their startle reflex. It also provides stability and encourages them to stay on their back while they are asleep. This is one of the protective measures against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). There are several different methods of wrapping and as a baby gets older, they often like to have their hands and arms free. Wrapping from just the waist down can be effective for babies aged 3-6 months. A light cotton or muslin wrap is ideal to use and can be washed and dried easily. Most parents find they need a few wraps to ensure they have enough to keep rotating them through the laundry. In summer it is often enough to dress a baby in just a singlet and nappy underneath a light fabric, open weave wrap.
Some babies don’t like the feeling of being contained in a wrap and prefer not to be. Not all babies are happy to be wrapped and wriggle their way out, no matter how well the wrap is constructed! This is fine and wrapping should not be something which is forced on a baby. Tucking your baby in and making sure there is not a lot of loose bedding they can slide under is a safe option.
An alternative to wrapping is to use a sleeping bag. You will need to make sure you get one which is the right size for your baby and which has a fitted neck and armholes. These are particularly useful in winter and you can add layers of clothing underneath, depending on how cold it is.
In many societies, parents co-sleep with their children. In Australia, parents who follow an Attachment Parenting approach see co-sleeping as a vital part of their overall philosophy. Co-sleeping is thought to help with bonding, successful breastfeeding and to promote better sleep. Some experts believe co-sleeping is protective to children; and even when they’re asleep parents retain a sense of surveillance over their child. If you do co-sleep, it is important that you never go to sleep with your baby lying on their tummy, on your chest.
For the majority of Australian parents, their children have their own sleeping place and this works for them. If parents do choose to co-sleep, there are some important safety aspects they need to consider.
The major issues to consider with bedding are usually safety and hygiene.