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We went to see friends last weekend and, as they have kids, decided that rather than camp on their floor, we should check into a hotel.

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  • My husband, my month-old baby and me. It was with some excitement then, that on Friday night, my husband and I put our daughter carefully in her deep-sided travel cot, flipped the switch on the video monitor and tiptoed out of our hotel room to dinner.

    You may think someone is lurking in your hotel room, but really, what are the odds? It was only the next day that I realised I may have made a serious error of judgment.

    Casually describing the previous night to our friends, I was met with concerned looks. I'm sorry, but if you think that, you are letting a fear of the unknown - or at least the highly unlikely - run your lives. What is worse is that I know some of them are considering cycling through London with their babies - are they mad?

    This will help keep the mattress clean and dry, as the cover can be wiped down. It's desirable to leave windows open at times for ventilation, but make certain that cats and dogs can't enter the room and get access to the bed.

    All I'm talking about here is letting my baby sleep peacefully in a room without me, as she does every night. Why are we less carefree than our parents? Has the risk changed?

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    The issue of leaving a baby to sleep alone is a hugely sensitive one. All the parents I spoke to would only comment anonymously, as, you'll note, have I. Could letting her sleep be construed as neglect? Could the hotel staff, all smiles to our faces, be complaining that we were bad parents behind our backs?

    It wasn't always this way. My inlaws have told me tales of weeks away at Butlins, where staff would wander between chalets listening out for crying babies. This is a relic from a more innocent time. Today, we have baby monitors with video images and speakers that alert us to the cries of our children immediately.

    Isn't this is exactly what we do each night in our own houses? There are just two big differences. One is that even in a small hotel, you cannot be sure that the range of the monitor will reach the restaurant. Ours stretches just 15 metres and so, last weekend, it did not reach our table.

    We ended up going back to our room to check on our daughter - who is a very sound sleeper - every 20 minutes, while staff assured us that they would let us know if they heard a cry in passing. The second big difference is that at home you can be fairly confident that your house is locked and secure, which you cannot be sure of in a hotel, where bedroom doors can probably be accessed by any number of staff.

    It is for this last reason that some parents of my generation are disproportionately risk averse. The disappearance of Madeleine McCann is hard to forget. We were looking forward to a week of post-dinner drinks at Le Commerce.

    I've always felt great empathy with her parents - but the coincidence has made it impossible for me to leave a child sleeping alone in a holiday house.

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  • Thankfully, hotels are trying to make things easier for parents of young children. Yes, we could have eaten dinner earlier all together and spent the evening reading in bed but better still, we could have tried a babysitting service.

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  • Dinnertime can be brought forward, but what about the rest of the evening? Seven of the UK hotels in the Luxury Family Hotels group provide a clever service whereby parents leave their hotel room phone off the hook and any sounds from it are transferred to the hotel switchboard, where a member of staff is listening in. Some people say they don't bother using the straps on the make of high chair I bought. I do; buckling them for safety is time well spent.

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    But, what are the chances, really, that one of the few people with access to our hotel door key would want and be able to harm our baby?

    I don't know the exact odds but they will be incredibly small. Much too small to make me waste an evening sitting in with her in silence, in the dark.

    The disappearance of Madeleine McCann is hard to forget. Sleep expert Mandy Gurney offers her advice… Our daughter is 19 months and still sleeping in her cot at night — but we need to use it for her new baby brother.

    And definitely too small to make me avoid hotels entirely. I don't think that makes me naive, or reckless.



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