Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby. It used to be known as ‘cot death’. While SIDS 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:
- 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
- As baby’s 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
- Ensure your baby has a clear, flat and safe sleep space. Whatever space you choose, it needs to have:
- 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.
- 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.
- Make sure your baby’s head is kept uncovered so they don’t get too hot
- Avoid smoking during your pregnancy, and keep your baby in a smoke free environment.
- Breastfeed your baby if you can, as this has been shown to reduce the incidence of SIDS
- Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair. The risk of SIDS is 50 times higher for babies when they sleep on a sofa or armchair with an adult
Co-sleeping with your baby
Many parents bring their babies into bed to sleep for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is to breastfeed, with mothers’ finding it helps make night time feeding less disruptive.
However, in order for you to make an informed decision, it’s really important that you’re aware of how to practice safer co-sleeping, and know there are circumstances in which co-sleeping with your baby can be dangerous.
Before you bed share, consider whether you’re happy it’s safe for your baby.
For safer co-sleeping:
- Keep pillows, sheets and blankets away from your baby, as well as any other items that could cause them to overheat
- Follow all other safer sleep advice to reduce the risk of SIDS, such as sleeping your baby on their back
- Avoid letting pets or other children in the bed
- Make sure baby won’t fall out of bed or get trapped between the mattress and the wall
When not to co-sleep:
- If either you or your partner smokes (even if you don’t smoke in the bedroom)
- If either you or your partner has drunk alcohol or taken drugs (including medications that may make you drowsy)
- If you are extremely tired
- If your baby was born premature (37 weeks or less)
- If your baby was born at a very low birth weight (2.5kg or 5.5lbs or less)
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.