This Safer Sleep Week (15 to 21 March 2021) Hampshire County Council and Hampshire Safeguarding Children Partnership are reminding parents and professionals that sleep safety is crucial for babies’ welfare and avoiding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

The Every Sleep Counts Programme was launched in March 2020 to equip frontline professionals with the knowledge, skills and resources to encourage good practice by parents and carers around safer sleeping. Since then, the initiative has involved midwives, health visitors and social care professionals, as well as housing services, police and children’s/family centres.

Councillor Patricia Stallard, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services and Young People, said: 

“Despite Covid-19 restrictions, the supportive safer sleep messages and leaflets have been consistently delivered by professionals as part of their appointments with households that include young babies. The feedback so far has been very encouraging, particularly as the messages are simple and easy to follow, backed up with clear illustrations and a helpful video. It is important that these sleep guidelines are shared as widely as possible and I’d urge family and friends to make a point of discussing sleep safety with new parents.” 

The Independent Chair of Hampshire Safeguarding Children Partnership, Derek Benson, said: 

“Our aim is that every parent and carer knows that following simple steps at bedtime and nap time could potentially save a baby’s life – every sleep really does count. Research has found that when babies are put on their backs to sleep in a clear, flat cot or Moses basket, the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), is greatly reduced.  

“A full review of the first year of the Every Sleep Counts Programme will take place in the coming months but, in the meantime, I am reassured that anecdotal evidence published in our annual report shows that some very positive conversations and behaviour changes have been prompted by this material.”  

  • One young mother stated that the leaflet was easy to understand and did not take long to read but the messages were really important, and both she and her partner felt more knowledgeable after reading it. Her partner had also changed his smoking habits and now only smokes outdoors. 
  • Another young mother with autism and communication difficulties kept the Every Sleep Counts information poster on a pinboard as a visual reminder, as she had trouble retaining spoken information. Her family nurse described the poster as ‘invaluable’. 

 Advice for parents is that the safest place for babies to sleep is close to their parents’ bed but in their own Moses basket or cot for at least the first six months. It is also important to: 

  • Put babies on their back for every sleep, with their feet at the end of the cot or Moses basket; 
  • Maintain a clear, flat, firm sleep space (no cot bumpers, toys or loose bedding);
  • Ensure that your baby’s room is a comfortable temperature (16° to 20°C). The chance of SIDS is higher in babies who get too hot;
  • Several research studies have concluded that there is a positive link between breast feeding and a reduced risk of SIDS;
  • Many babies will fall asleep in a car seat, however travel systems and car seats should not be used as a routine sleep environment or for long periods of time;
  • Keep the baby’s environment smoke-free day and night, and never sleep with your baby if you smoke cigarettes. It is suggested that you do not share a bed with your baby if you use e-cigarettes;
  • Never sleep with your baby if you have used medication that can cause drowsiness, or alcohol or drugs;
  • Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair. 

Ongoing development and evaluation of the programme and additional training is being undertaken to ensure that the Every Sleep Counts messages are shared with parents and carers at every opportunity and impact is assessed.  

You can find the Hampshire and Isle of Wight online toolkit for Every Sleep Counts at: www.hampshirescp.org.uk/toolkits/every-sleep-counts-toolkit/