Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby. It used to be known as ‘cot death’. While sudden infant death syndrome is now very rare, over 200 babies still die every year. We now have more understanding of the situations in which babies die and what can be done to reduce the risks.
Here are the key messages for safer sleep:
- Avoid smoking and keep your baby in a smoke free environment. Smoking in pregnancy increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
- Breastfeed your baby if you can, as this has been shown to reduce the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome
- Make sure your baby’s head is kept uncovered so they don’t get too hot
For the first six months your baby should:
- Sleep in the same room as you night and day
- Be placed on their back not their front or side for every sleep episode,
- Sleep with their feet to the foot of their cot/crib
Ensure your baby has a clear, flat and safe sleep space.
- A firm, flat mattress with no raised or cushioned areas
- No pillows, quilts, duvets, cot bumpers or soft toys
- No pods, nests or sleep positioners
- The use of ‘sleep positioning devices’ or rolled-up blankets to keep your baby in one position is not recommended – unless you have been advised to do so by a health professional for a specific medical condition.
- Never let your baby sleep for long periods of time in their car seat
- As babies grow they learn to roll, this is fine. Always put baby on their back for every sleep, day or night, without additional sleep positioners or devices
The Lullaby Trust states that ‘it is much safer for your baby to be in their cot with just the sheets or blankets and no extras which could be pulled over their face or cause an accident’ – this includes sleep positioning devices.
NEVER RISK falling asleep with your baby on a sofa, armchair, or any other makeshift bed such as a bean bag as evidence shows the risk of sudden infant death syndrome is greater. They can easily get trapped, squashed or dropped.
Co-sleeping with your baby
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in their own sleeping place in the same room as their parents/carers.
Some parents/carers bring their babies into bed to sleep for a variety of reasons. This can be for some or all of the night.
While co-sleeping is not recommended, it’s really important that you’re aware of the circumstances when co-sleeping is more dangerous.
Before you bring your baby into bed, consider whether you feel it is safe to do so. Think about this on every occasion, especially if you are away from your own home.
Complete the checklist to help inform your decision about co-sleeping. Answer Yes or No to the following questions:
If you answer YES to ANY of the above then you SHOULD NOT co sleep with your baby as all these factors are linked to an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
If you answered NO to ALL of the above, it is still advisable that you do not co-sleep, but if you choose to do so:
- Remove pillows, duvets and blankets from the bed, as well as any other items that could cause them to overheat
- Sleep your baby on their back
- Avoid letting pets or other children in the bed
- Your baby must not be left alone in the bed
- Make sure your baby won’t fall out of bed or get trapped between the mattress and the wall
- Ensure there is only one adult in the bed with your baby
NEVER CO-SLEEP IF YOU ARE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL OR DRUGS/PRESCRIBED MEDICATION.
You can find lots more information about safer sleeping from the Lullaby Trust:
For more information on safer sleep advice :
- The Lullaby Trust: Co-sleeping with your baby
- The Lullaby Trust: Room sharing
- Little Lullaby– support for young parents, from young parents
- BASIS: Baby Sleep Info Source– providing information about normal infant sleep for parents based on latest research. You can also download the free Infant Sleep Info app for Apple and Android.
- For help giving up smoking, speak to your public health nurse or midwife, or phone NHS Smokefree on 0800 02234332
- Unicef leaflet- Caring for your baby at night
- The Lullaby Trust leaflet- Safer sleep for babies
Lullaby Trust- Free Safer Sleep Presentations
A number of presentations around safer sleep have been made available:
Safer sleep for babies – Sleep position, sleep environment and bedding
Click here to find out more about the safest way to put your baby down to sleep for both daytime naps and at night.
Safer sleep for babies – Overheating, temperature and overwrapping
Click here to find out more about the safest room temperature for your baby and the risk associated with overheating and overwrapping your baby.
Safer sleep for babies – Breastfeeding
Click here to find out more about the benefits of breastfeeding.