How to sleep your baby more safely
What is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby where no cause is found.
We do not know what causes SIDS. For many babies it is likely that a combination of factors affect them at a vulnerable stage of their development, which leads them to die suddenly and unexpectedly.
However, we do know you can significantly reduce the chance of SIDS occurring by following safer sleep advice.
Around 88% of SIDS deaths happen when a baby is six months old or less.
After this time, the risk is reduced, however SIDS can still happen, so it is best to continue the safer sleep routines you have built up over time.
To reduce the risk of SIDS for your baby, follow our evidence-based safer sleep advice.
Quick tips for safer sleep
Things you can do
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep
- Keep your baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth
- Place your baby to sleep in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months
- Breastfeed your baby
- Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition
Things to avoid
- Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
- Don’t sleep in the same bed as your baby if you smoke, drink or take drugs or are extremely tired, if your baby was born prematurely or was of low birth-weight
- Avoid letting your baby get too hot
- Don’t cover your baby’s face or head while sleeping or use loose bedding
The best sleeping position for your baby
You should always place your baby on their back to sleep and not on their front or side.
Sleeping your baby on their back (known as the supine position) every night is one of the most protective actions you can take to ensure your baby is sleeping as safely as possible.
There is substantial evidence from around the world to show that sleeping your baby on their back at the beginning of every sleep or nap (day and night) significantly reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Sharing a room with your baby
Place your baby to sleep in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months, even during the day.
A large study of evidence from across Europe found that the risk of sudden infant death was significantly reduced when the infant slept in the same room, but not the same bed, as the parents.
The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first 6 months is in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you
The chance of SIDS is lower when babies sleep in a separate cot in the same room as their parents
Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
Sleeping on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby is one of the most high-risk situations for them.
Studies have found that sharing a sofa or armchair with a baby whilst you both sleep is associated with an extremely high risk of SIDS. One study found that approximately one-sixth of infants in England and Wales who died of SIDS were found sleeping with an adult on a sofa.
Make sure that you do not accidentally fall asleep with your baby on a sofa. If you think you might fall asleep, put the baby down in a safe place to sleep.
If you are breastfeeding, have your partner stay up with you, breastfeed in a different position where you are confident you might not fall asleep, or feed the baby somewhere else.
The safest room temperature for babies
It is important to make sure that your baby is a comfortable temperature – not too hot or too cold. The chance of SIDS is higher in babies who get too hot.
A room temperature of 16-20°C – with light bedding or a lightweight, well-fitting baby sleep bag– is comfortable and safe for sleeping babies.
It can be difficult to judge the temperature in the room, so use a room thermometer in the rooms where your baby sleeps.
Every baby is different and our advice on room temperature is intended as a guide. So while it’s important to be informed about overheating, you need to check your baby regularly to see if they are too hot.
Feel your baby’s tummy or the back of their neck (your baby’s hands and feet will usually be cooler, which is normal). If your baby’s skin is hot or sweaty, remove one or more layers of bedclothes or bedding.
Babies do not need to wear hats indoors, nor sleep under a duvet or quilt.
Smoking during pregnancy or after birth increases the risk of SIDS
How to keep your baby smoke-free
- Both you and your partner should try not to smoke during pregnancy and after the birth
- You should also keep your baby out of smoky areas. Don’t let people smoke near your baby and keep your home, car, and other places your baby spends time, smoke free
- If you or your partner smoke, you should not share a bed with your baby as this greatly increases the chance of SIDS even if you do not smoke in the bedroom
- If you smoke 1-9 cigarettes a day during pregnancy you are more than four times as likely to have a baby die as a sudden infant death than a woman who didn’t smoke at all during pregnancy.
- Even if you did smoke when you were pregnant, you should still try not to expose your baby to smoke after birth as this can help reduce the risk of sudden infant death.
A clear cot is a safer cot
Babies are at higher risk of SIDS if they have their heads covered, so it is safest to keep baby’s cot clear of any items such as bumpers, toys and loose bedding. Unnecessary items in a baby’s cot can also increase the risk of accidents.
Babies need just a few basic items for sleep: a firm flat surface and some bedding.
New parents now have a massive range of baby products to choose from and it can be really confusing to know what is needed. Our advice is simple: the safest cot is a clear cot.
While evidence on individual items is not widely available, it makes sense to be as cautious as possible.
We therefore recommend babies are slept in cots or Moses baskets that are kept as clear as possible and specifically advise:
- No pillows or duvets;
- No cot bumpers;
- No soft toys;
- No loose bedding;
- No products (such as wedges or straps) that will keep your baby in one sleeping position.
Breastfeeding and SIDS
Breastfeeding lowers the risk of SIDS. Breastfeeding for at least 2 months halves the risk of SIDS but the longer you can continue the more protection it will give your baby.
The Department of Health now recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for at least six months and that breastfeeding is continued, with the addition of appropriate weaning foods, for as long as the mother and baby want.
Even breastfeeding for a short time can be protective for your baby. Both partial and exclusive breastfeeding have been shown to be associated with a lower SIDS rate, but exclusive breastfeeding was associated with the lowest risk.
SIDS risk is halved in babies who are breastfed for at least 2 months
Breastfeeding can be hard. If you are struggling talk to your midwife or health visitor and they can support you or call National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.
Dummies and SIDS
Some research suggests that it is possible that using a dummy when putting a baby down to sleep could reduce the risk of sudden infant death.
- If you choose to use a dummy, wait until breastfeeding is well established (at up to about 4 weeks old).
- Stop giving a dummy to your baby to go to sleep between 6 and 12 months.
- Don’t force your baby to take a dummy or put it back in if your baby spits it out. Don’t use a neck cord.
- Don’t put anything sweet on the dummy, and don’t offer during awake time.
- Using an orthodontic dummy is best as it adapts to your baby’s mouth shape.
- If you choose to use a dummy make sure it is part of your baby’s regular sleep routine.
For further safe sleep advice please visit – https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk