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Safer sleep for babies:
A guide for parents

Meeting and getting to know your baby is an extremely exciting and rewarding time.

It’s also the beginning of a new relationship.

Babies need a lot of sleep during the first few months of their lives so it’s important to ensure that they are sleeping as safely as possible.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby where no cause is found. While SIDS is rare, it can still happen and there are steps parents can take to help reduce the chance of this tragedy occurring.

Although we don’t yet know how to completely prevent SIDS, it is possible to significantly lower the chances of it happening by following the advice below.

You should try to follow the advice for all sleep periods where possible, not just at night.



5 things you can do

Icon-Tick Always place your baby on their back to sleep

Icon-Tick Keep your baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth

Icon-Tick Breastfeed your baby, if you can

Icon-Tick Place your baby to sleep in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months

Icon-Tick Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition


4 things to avoid

Icon-AvoidNever sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby

Icon-AvoidDon’t cover your baby’s face or head while sleeping or use loose bedding

Icon-AvoidAvoid letting your baby get too hot

Icon-AvoidDon’t sleep in the same bed as your baby if you smoke, drink, take drugs or are extremely tired, or if your baby was born prematurely or was of low birth weight


Tips and advice

Always place your baby on their back to sleep

You should always place your baby on their back to sleep and not on their front or side (unless your doctor has advised you of a medical reason to do so).

Sleeping a baby on their front or side greatly increases the chance of SIDS.

It is important that you always put your baby on their back as part of their regular sleep routine – the chance of SIDS is particularly high for babies who are sometimes placed on their front or side.

If your baby has rolled onto their tummy, you should turn them onto their back again.

Once your baby can roll from back to front and back again, on their own, they can be left to find their own position.

Keep your baby smoke free during pregnancy & after birth

Both you and your partner should try not to smoke during pregnancy and after the birth.

Smoking both during pregnancy and after your baby is born greatly increases the chance of SIDS, and your baby can be affected by either you or your partner smoking.

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 or anywhere else at home.

You have a much better chance of giving up smoking if you get help to quit. Speak to your midwife or health visitor or call NHS smokefree on 0800 022 4332.

Breastfeed your baby

Breastfed babies have a lower chance of SIDS.

You should try and breastfeed your baby, even if only some of the time – breastfeeding some of the time may reduce the chance of SIDS compared to formula feeding alone, but exclusive breastfeeding lowers the chance most.

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

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.

Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in a good condition

You should avoid using soft or bulky bedding (such as quilts, pillows and duvets) as these increase the chance of SIDS.

You should sleep your baby on a firm, flat mattress that is clean and in good condition. A mattress with a waterproof cover will help you keep it clean and dry.

Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby

Sofa sharing with your baby greatly increases the chance of SIDS.

Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby either next to you or on your chest, even during the day.

Don’t sleep in the same bed as your baby if you smoke, drink or take drugs

Bed sharing increases the chance of SIDS and is particularly dangerous if:

(1) Either you or your partner smokes - even if you do not smoke in the bedroom or anywhere else at home.

(2) Either you or your partner has drunk alcohol or taken drugs - including medication that may make you drowsy.

Bed sharing is also dangerous if your baby was premature (born before 37 weeks) or had a low birth weight (less than 2.5 kg or 5 ½ lbs), even if you don’t smoke, drink or take drugs.

Avoid letting your baby get too hot

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 16-20oC, with light bedding or a lightweight well-fitting baby sleep bag, is comfortable and safe for sleeping babies.

Advice on room temperature is intended as a guide. Every baby is different, and will need very different things. So while it’s important to be informed about overheating you need to check your baby regularly to see if he or she is too hot. Look for sweating or feel the baby’s tummy – your baby’s hands and feet will usually be cooler, which is normal. If your baby is hot, remove one or more layers of bedclothes. Babies who are unwell need fewer, not more bedclothes.

Don’t cover your baby’s face or head while sleeping or use loose bedding

The use of loose bedding which can cover your baby’s face or head can be dangerous and can increase the chance of SIDS.

To keep your baby safe and their head uncovered while they are sleeping you should:

(1) Place your baby on their back in the ‘feet to foot’ position – this is where the baby’s feet are placed at the foot of the cot – so they can’t wriggle down under the blankets.

(2) Use blankets which are firmly tucked in, no higher than the baby’s shoulders or baby sleeping bag.

(3) Babies do not need to wear hats indoors.

 

 

Watch the video below from the Lullaby Trust to see the safest way to sleep your baby

 

 

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