New parents are being reminded to sleep safely with their baby if staying with relatives or drinking alcohol this Christmas, as part of the Day or Night, Sleep Right campaign.

As families get together over the festive break, the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Partnership and the City of York Safeguarding Children Partnership are asking parents to make sure they plan ahead when organising sleeping arrangements for babies and young children.

The partnerships have worked together to develop the Day or Night, Sleep Right guidance and training for partners and professionals who are working closely with families of babies and young children. The package is designed to support professionals including midwives, social workers and early help teams to assess and minimise the risks to prevent circumstances that could lead to the death of a child by working with families.

The sudden and unexpected death of a child is one of the most devastating tragedies that could happen to a family. Despite a substantial reduction in the 1980s and 90s, at least 300 infants continue to die suddenly and unexpectedly each year in England and Wales. Sadly, some of these deaths have occurred in North Yorkshire and York.

Reducing the risks that could lead to such a death is one of the biggest priorities for the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Partnership and the City of York Safeguarding Children Partnership.

Together they aim to reinforce the key messages of safer sleep through the ‘Day or Night, Sleep Right’ campaign.

Karen Hedgley, Designated Nurse for Safeguarding Children and Children in Care, added: “Whilst this campaign is focused on embedding Day or Night, Sleep Right as safeguarding practice, we know that over the festive period many families will be staying with friends or relatives and out of routine. So it’s particularly important to think about safe sleeping arrangements for babies and very young children.

“If you’re staying somewhere else over Christmas, plan ahead to make sure you know who will be looking after your baby and where everyone will be sleeping.

“Sleeping on a sofa with a baby is extremely dangerous. The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back in a cot, crib or moses basket and in a room with you for the first six months.

“It’s also really important that families don’t co-sleep with their baby if they’ve been drinking alcohol, smoking or taking drugs.”

Information on safe sleeping for parents can be found on the website of the national charity, the Lullaby Trust.

If you are sleeping in someone else’s home this Christmas with a baby, or planning on having a drink, the advice to people includes;

  • A clear cot is a safer cot. Babies are at higher risk if they have their heads covered, so keep  cots clear of any items such as bumpers, toys and loose bedding. Unnecessary items in a baby’s cot can increase the risk of accidents.
  • Babies should be slept in a clear sleep space, which is easy to create in a cot or Moses basket. However, if you doze off accidentally in a bed with your baby, or choose to bed share, keep pillows, blankets and sheets away from your baby, or any other items which could obstruct their breathing. Avoid lettings pets or other children in the bed. Make sure your baby won’t fall out of bed, or get trapped between the mattress and the wall.
  • There are some circumstances in which co-sleeping with your baby can be very dangerous, including if you or your partner smoke (even if you do not smoke in the bedroom) or if you or your partner have drunk alcohol, taken drugs, or medication which makes you drowsy. Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby, as this can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by 50 times.

Dr Maggie Atkinson, speaking on behalf of both Safeguarding Children Partnerships, said: “Everyone has a part to play in the safety of our children and we’re pleased that so many professionals have already attended the Day or Night, Sleep Right training. By making sure that the people who have direct contact with families are able to share the right information at the right time, we can reduce the risk of these tragic deaths.”

See information for professionals about the ‘Day or Night, Sleep Right’ campaign.