Why safe sleep is so important
Sudden infant death, or cot death as it is also known, talks about the sudden and unexpected death of a baby. It can happen at any time of day or night.
Although sudden infant death is rare, there are still around 200 babies who die in the UK every year in unsafe sleep situations, therefore it is important parents and carers are aware of their baby’s sleep environment to be able to reduce the risk.
Keep your baby safe while they sleep, both in the day and at night, by following the below advice:
- Put babies on their back for every sleep.
For cots, cribs or pram a ‘feet to foot’ sleeping position and on a firm, flat mattress for every sleep that they have is safest.
- Babies should sleep on a clear and flat sleep space.
- Never sleep with your baby on a settee or armchair as this can increase the risk by 50 times.
- Keep babies in smoke-free spaces.
- Never sleep with your baby if you or your partner smoke, have been drinking alcohol, taking medication or drugs, or if you are feeling unusually tired.
- Breast feed, if possible, as the risk of sudden infant death is halved in babies who are breastfed for at least two months.
- Ensure that your baby spends the first six months of their life sleeping in the same room as you, this includes their day-time naps and night-time sleep.
Making sure your baby is not too hot or too cold
The best way to check your baby isn’t getting too hot is to feel their tummy or back of their neck, if their skin feels clammy or sweaty, they are too hot, so remove a layer of clothing, as young babies cannot regulate their temperature.
- Maintain the room temperature where your baby sleeps to 16-20 degrees Celsius.
- Ensure your baby doesn’t sleep with their head covered or sleep with a hat on.
- If you are using baby sleeping bags, make sure they are the correct tog rating for the season and are appropriate for your baby’s age and weight.
Take a look at the Lullaby Trust website for more information about making sure that your baby is a comfortable temperature.
Things to avoid
- Baby bouncers or baby swings aren’t safe for your baby to sleep in
- Sleep pods, baby nests, hammocks, bean bags or cot and crib bumpers
- Pillows or quilts, until after your baby is 1 years old
- Soft cuddly toys in Moses baskets, cribs or cots
- Folded blankets or quilts under your baby’s Moses basket, crib or cot mattresses
- Placing your baby’s Moses basket, crib or cot in direct sunlight or near to a radiator
- Make sure that your baby doesn’t become too hot.
It is common for parents and carers to share their bed with their baby to feed or sleep, this is called bed-sharing (co-sleeping).
If you are bed-sharing with your baby it’s important to do this safely:
- Put babies on their back for every sleep
- Babies should sleep on a clear and flat sleep space
- Keep babies in smoke-free spaces
- Keep pillows, sheets and blankets away from your baby to prevent them getting too hot
- Follow the safe sleep advice from the Lullaby Trust
- Make sure your baby can’t fall out of bed, get trapped between the mattress and the wall or be rolled onto by yourselves.
Take a look at this video on how to bed-share more safely from the Lullaby Trust.
You should not bed-share with your baby if either you or your partner:
- Smoke (even if you do not smoke in the bedroom)
- Have been drinking alcohol
- Have taken drugs, this includes medications that can make you drowsy
- Are excessively tired.
You should not bed-share if:
- Your baby was born early (37 weeks or less)
- Their birth weight was low (2.5kg or 5 1/2 lbs or less)
- If you think that your baby is unwell it is important that you seek medical advice from your doctor.
Pushchairs and prams
- It isn’t safe to cover your baby’s pram or pushchair with blankets or covers, as this prevents the air from circulating and can lead to your baby getting too hot or overheating.
A pram or pushchair sun parasol/ canopy and finding some shade, where possible, is safest.
Car seats and travelling
- Be aware of the length of time that your baby spends in their car seat.
If you have to go on a long journey, make sure you take regular breaks and remove your baby from their car seat during your break on travelling. It is recommended that babies should not be in a car seat for longer than 2 hours without being taken out for a break.
- We advise removing any hats or outdoor clothing such as snowsuits and coats once your baby is in the car, and re-checking that the car seat straps are adjusted to fit correctly.
- Babies should be removed from their car seats when they are not travelling.
Baby swaddling and sling safety information
- Use a sling that supports the development of baby’s spine, neck and hips, whereby the baby’s’ weight is evenly distributed.
- Make sure you can see your baby to ensure that their face isn’t restricted or covered.
- Follow the TICKS advice from the UK Sling Consortium:
Keep your baby...
- In view at all times
- Close enough to kiss
- Keep their chin off their chest
- Support their back.
Staying with close friends or relatives
- If your baby is staying with a close friend or relatives e.g., grandparents, or if you are visiting outside of your home, it’s important to remember and share the key safer sleep messages:
- Put babies on their back for every sleep
- For the first six months, babies should sleep in the same room as their parent or carer (day and night)
- Babies need a firm, flat mattress with no raised or soft sides
- Make sure your baby’s head is kept uncovered so they don’t get too hot
- Keep babies in smoke-free spaces (day and night).
- Lullaby Trust information on safer sleep for babies and support for families
- Quick guide to safer baby sleep (Lullaby Trust PDF)
- Safer sleep for babies (Lullaby Trust PDF)
- Lullaby Trust: Safer sleeping for twins, triplets and more
- BASIS – Baby Sleep Information Source (basisonline.org.uk) for parents and carers who wish to make informed choices about infant sleep and night-time care