Picking the right mattress for your baby

LAST WEEK, A FRIEND from the US called saying that her mother was not happy with the sleeping arrangements she had made for her newborn. The baby was being put to sleep in a crib that was lined with a new, taut mattress, and her mother worried that the mattress was too hard. It is often assumed that a child needs to have a soft pillow and mattress to sleep on but a firm mattress is the right choice.

A taut, preferably cotton (so that it doesn't heat up) mattress with a well-fitted bedsheet will ensure that your baby's spine is well supported. It will also help in reinforcing a good posture. Babies put to sleep on a wobbly or soft mattress, surrounded by pillows, bolsters, loose blankets, duvets, are more likely to die of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), otherwise known as crib death.

Some of the ways to build and reinforce a safe sleeping environment for your baby is to

Put baby on its back: The risk to SIDS has been known to come down significantly when babies are put to sleep on their back (supine position) as opposed to on their bellies or sides (prone position). Those who worry that such a position can cause a baby to swallow its own spit up or drool need not, as babies are equipped with protective airway mechanisms (unless there is a congenital respiratory disorder). Once a baby is capable of rolling from prone to supine position or vice versa on her own, she can be allowed to assume her natural sleep position.

Remove bed paraphernalia: Woolly blankets, ruptured pillows and soft toys are best avoided. A baby can get under them and not know how to emerge.

Keep a check on baby’s environment: Over dressing your baby with sweaters and blankets could lead to hyperthermia (over heating), one of the reasons that is tied to SIDS. International norms insist that a baby needs to be layered with just one more round of dressing than an adult to be comfortable. Layering is better than swaddling, as a baby is likely to kick off a blanket. Room temperature and proper ventilation should be continually monitored.

•Avoid smoking from pregnancy to when the baby is one.