Safe sleeping guidelines for your baby

Follow these steps to ensure your baby is sleeping in the safest possible way.

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  • How to put your baby to bed safely

    Putting your newborn down to sleep can bring a mixture of emotions – relief that you can have a well-earned break while your baby sleeps, but also anxiety as you listen out for every little intake of breath and tiny movement your baby makes.

    Knowing that you’re putting your baby to sleep in the safest way possible can help reduce those anxious feelings. It also helps to remember that cot death – or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – is very rare, but you can reduce the risk even further by following this sleep advice from the baby bedtime experts…

  • Put your baby on her back to sleep

    To reduce the risk of cot death, you should always place your baby on her back to sleep, on a firm flat mattress. Your baby should be put on her back for both night-time sleeps and day naps.

    Once your baby's old enough to be rolling over by herself, you shouldn't try to prevent her from doing so.

    Your baby can get plenty of time of her tummy during the day when she plays.

  • Tuck your baby into bed safely

    More than a quarter (27.1%) of cot deaths could be prevented if babies’ heads didn’t become covered with bedclothes while they were sleeping, according to research. For safe sleeping, place your baby with her feet at the foot of the cot and her bedclothes no higher than her shoulders.

    Use sheets and light blankets until she’s a year old and tuck them in firmly so she can’t wriggle down under them. Alternatively, use a baby sleeping bag, but be sure to buy the correct size so that she can’t slip down inside.

  • Her own crib or cot, in your bedroom

    “It’s commonly agreed that bed-sharing is dangerous for a baby if the mother is a smoker. But there is also evidence that it can be dangerous even if the mother is not a smoker,” says Professor George Haycock, scientific advisor for the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID).

    Sleeping with your baby may seem more convenient, but accidents can happen. You might roll over and suffocate her, she could get caught between the wall and the bed, or roll out of your bed and be injured.

    The FSID advice is clear: the safest place for your baby to sleep is in her own crib or cot in a room with you for the first six months.

    If your baby is put into her own room before she is 6 months old, rather than in her own cot in your room, her risk of cot death is doubled.

    It’s especially dangerous for your baby to sleep in your bed if:

    • You or your partner are a smoker, even if you never smoke in bed or at home
    • You or your partner have been drinking alcohol or feel very tired
    • You or your partner take medication or drugs that make you drowsy 
    • If your baby was born before 37 weeks
    • If your baby weighed less than 2.5kg (5½lb) at birth
    • If your baby is less than 3 months old
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  • The right temperature for your sleeping baby

    Keep your baby's head uncovered and avoid letting your baby get too hot.

    “Prevent your baby from overheating by making sure you use the correct bedding and keep the room at the right temperature,” says Professor George Haycock, from FSID.

    A temperature of between 16-20ºC (60.8-68ºF) is recommended, 18ºC (65ºF) is just right.

    Use a room thermometer to check, and see our guide below for the right amount of bedding to use:

    • 12°C: A sheet and four or more blankets
    • 16°C: A sheet and three blankets
    • 18°C: A sheet and two blankets
    • 20-22°C: A sheet and one blanket
    • 23°C-plus: A sheet only
  • Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair

    To reduce the risk of cot death, FSID advises you never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.

    “We were staying with relatives for Christmas, and I couldn't get Georgina to settle in the crib we had for her. An older relative suggested we make a bed for her on the sofa but I was too nervous to do this as I remembered reading a story about a similar situation and the baby was found face down and not breathing in the morning," says Joanna, 32, mum to Georgina, 3 months.

    “It was not a risk I was prepared to take so we ended up going home and abandoning our plans. Even though older relatives assured me this was common practice years ago, I really felt things had changed so much as the risk of suffocation to your baby if you lay her to sleep on her front is something we are warned about so much these days."

  • A dummy may help reduce the risk of cot death

    Research published in 2005 suggested that dummies could play a role in preventing cot death.

    The FSID now advises that settling your baby to sleep with a dummy can reduce the risk of cot death, and makes the following suggestions:

    • If you’re breastfeeding, don’t introduce a dummy until your baby is a month old, to ensure that breastfeeding is well established.
    • If your baby is using a dummy, remember that you can use it for all her sleeps, including naps, but don’t worry if the dummy falls out while she’s asleep. And you shouldn’t force your baby to take a dummy if she doesn’t want one.
    • Never coat your baby’s dummy in anything sweet.
  • Stop smoking

    To reduce the risk of cot death risk, the FSID advises that you should cut smoking in pregnancy and never let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby.

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  • Breastfeeding could help reduce cot death

    New research from the USA Agency for healthcare research and quality has revealed that breastfeeding your baby, even just for a short time, means that she is one-third less likely to die from cot death than a baby who has never been breastfed.