Life with a baby

Safe sleeping: how to reduce the risk of SIDS for your baby

4 min read

Your baby’s safety is always your number one priority as a parent, and that’s never more important than when they’re sleeping. We talk you through the safe sleep guidelines for newborns.

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What is the safest way for babies to sleep?

The NHS recommends that for the first six months, your baby should always sleep in the same room as where you are, in a separate moses basket or cot, both for daytime naps and during the night.

There are a few further steps you can take to keep your newborn baby as safe as possible:

  • always place your baby on their back to sleep
  • put your baby with their feet touching the end of the cot, moses basket or pram
  • keep your baby’s head uncovered from bedding
  • use a firm and flat mattress that’s waterproof and in good condition
  • keep the cot clear of toys or bumpers.

For further guidance on how to find safe cots and mattresses for your baby, take a look at the Which? reviews and advice on buying cots and cot mattresses. Rigorous testing and impartial advice can help you choose the right one for your child.

We also send out email safety alerts if a baby product has been recalled, so sign up to our newsletter below to be kept in the loop.

What is SIDS?

Although very rare (affecting 1 in 3,000 babies), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is one of the main causes of death in babies under the age of 12 months, and the risk is highest in the first six months of life.

SIDS happens when a baby stops breathing, usually when sleeping, and no other cause of death can be found. While researchers still don’t know exactly what causes SIDS, the safe sleeping guidelines above have been shown to help reduce the risk to your baby.

The number of deaths from SIDS was reduced drastically after parents were advised to put their babies to sleep on their backs in the 1990s.

Is it safe to share a bed with my baby?

For many parents, sharing a bed with their baby provides them with more sleep than they would get sleeping apart. It allows for comfort and convenience if you’re breastfeeding, and can promote a stronger bond between you and your baby.

Studies have shown that there is an association between SIDS and parents sleeping with their babies on a bed or sofa in the first year. However, these studies have not shown that co-sleeping itself causes SIDS.

It’s important to note that bedsharing is far safer when it’s done intentionally and in an environment prepared according to recommended guidelines, compared to when a parent falls asleep accidentally with their baby.

Unicef estimates that nine-in-ten UK SIDS deaths in co-sleeping babies happen because of hazardous co-sleeping practices, such as accidentally falling asleep together on a sofa, or after drinking alcohol.

Bedsharing guidelines

Bedsharing is safest when:

  • only the mum sleeps next to the baby in the bed
  • the mum hasn’t been consuming alcohol
  • the mum (and partner if sleeping in the bed) hasn’t been smoking during or after pregnancy
  • the mum is breastfeeding
  • the mum isn’t sleep deprived or on medication that makes her drowsy
  • the mum doesn’t use a duvet (just a light blanket up to the waist)
  • there’s no loose bedding or pillows in the bed
  • the baby was not premature (born before 37 weeks) or with a birth weight of less than 2.5 kg.
  • the bed has been checked so there’s no risk of the baby falling off or getting wedged in between the mattress and frame.

What’s a bedside bassinet?

An alternative to bedsharing is to place a cot right beside your bed with the side down, attach a cot mattress to your bed or get a bedside bassinet. This allows you to be close to your little one at night while avoiding some of the complications associated with bedsharing, as your baby still has its own separate sleeping space.

When buying a bedside bassinet, it’s important to check the sturdiness of the attachment mechanism and any age and weight restrictions, make sure the mattress is safe and supportive and that there’s no risk of your baby getting wedged between the mattress or the bed.

You should also always keep bedding light and minimal, so your baby doesn’t overheat, and never leave your baby alone in your bed.

More advice on safe sleeping

You can always turn to your midwife or health visitor if you have any questions around whether your baby’s sleeping environment is safe.

More from Which?


References

These are the sources of information used in this article:

Unicef, Co-sleeping and SIDS: A Guide for Health Professionals (2018)

NICE, Postnatal care up to 8 weeks after birth, NICE Clinical Guideline 37, London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2015)

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