Worrying about your baby’s sleep is a very common concern for new parents, from where they should sleep to what bedding you’re supposed to use.
Below we answer the most common baby sleep queries to help you ensure your little one has a good and safe night’s sleep, whether it’s at home, out and about or on holiday.
Jump to our Best Buy cot mattresses to find the ones that impressed in our tough tests.
1. Keep your baby in your room
Experts recommend having your baby sleep in the same room as you for the first six months.
This is because a large study of evidence found the risk of cot death is significantly reduced when baby slept in the same room, but not the same bed, as its parents.
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2. Check your baby’s temperature
The risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is higher in babies who get too hot, according to safer sleep charity The Lullaby Trust.
The room temperature should be between 16 and 20°C and this can be checked with a dedicated room thermometer.
Typically many baby monitors also tell you the temperature of the room. Go to our baby monitor reviews to see which ones we’ve tested.
Make sure to keep your baby out of direct sunlight and read our guide to baby bedding safety for a full list of what sheets and blankets you need for your baby.
Bedding should be lightweight or choose a baby sleeping bag of the correct tog and size to ensure their comfort and safety, whether it’s the middle of winter or the height of summer.
How to check if your baby is too hot
- Feel your baby’s chest or the back of their neck. If their skin is hot or sweaty, remove one or more layers of bedding or bedclothes.
- Don’t use your baby’s hands and feet to judge temperature as these will usually be cooler than the rest of their body.
- If you swaddle your baby, check their temperature to ensure they’re not too hot. Use thin materials, don’t swaddle above the shoulders or too tightly, and never put a swaddled baby to sleep on their front.
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3. Put your baby in the best sleeping position
Babies should be placed on their back to sleep (the supine position) and not on their front or side.
Their feet should be placed at the foot of the cot so they can’t wriggle down under the covers (although don’t worry if they wriggle up and get uncovered).
If you’re using sheets rather than a baby sleeping bag, tuck the bedclothes in firmly around your baby and no higher than their shoulders to avoid their head getting covered while they sleep.
Very premature babies who’ve spent some time in a neonatal unit may have slept on their fronts while there for medical reasons, but once they’re home they should go to sleep on their back.
Take a look at our Best Buy baby monitors to help you keep an eye on your sleeping baby.
4. Make sure their cot is clear
Tempting though it may be to put pretty bedding in your baby’s cot or cotbed, it’s important to follow these guidelines:
- No pillows. The Lullaby Trust says using a pillow has been shown to increase the risk of SIDS by up to 2.5 times, so pillows are to be avoided for children under one year.
- No quilts and duvets for under the age of one. Use cotton sheets or lightweight blankets.
- Baby sleeping bags are a convenient alternative to traditional bedding. Make sure it’s the correct tog for the room temperature.
- No cot bumpers. These can pose an accident risk once your baby begins to roll and move around the cot.
- Remove any soft toys from the cot before each sleep.
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5. Lay them to sleep on a flat surface
Although babies should be put to sleep on their back, they can roll over onto their front from four weeks old and there can be a gap of a few months before they learn to roll from front to back, making it vital that they sleep on a flat surface.
Your cot mattress must be flat, firm, dry and clean, with no tears.
It must also fit the cot or cot bed correctly with no gaps larger than 3cm so there’s no risk of your baby trapping a limb.
Using cot beds safely: where to place it and how to set it up.
6. Limit their time sleeping in a baby car seat
Car seats put your baby in a semi-supine position – a 45 degree recline angle which provides good support for your baby’s neck and head during transport.
But this position can restrict their breathing, so try not to use a baby car seat for more than 20-30 minutes at one time in the first four weeks after their birth, and for no longer than two hours at a time from six months upwards.
This means taking regular breaks if travelling in the car on long journeys and once you’re home or at your destination, you should move them to their usual firm, flat surface to sleep.
Your baby should be in a properly designed and fitted car seat. Go to our child car seat fitting guide for our free downloadable car seat fitting checklist.
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7. Safe sleeping when you’re out and about with your baby
Prams and buggies shouldn’t be covered with blankets, clothes or any other cover that prevents the air circulating and could lead to overheating, increasing the chances of SIDS.
We tested a number of materials to see how quickly they would heat up the air inside your pram. Find out which sun covers cause pushchairs to overheat.
The Lullaby Trust says: ‘Using a cover also creates a barrier between parent and baby, which is slightly risky as parents won’t be able to see if their baby is having difficulties or monitor their temperature easily.’
Instead, attach a clip-on sunshade or parasol, regularly check if your baby is getting too hot by feeling their chest or back of their neck and keep them out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
Go to our baby sling and carrier reviews.
8. Help your baby to sleep safely on holiday
- If you’re on holiday in hot temperatures, use lighter bedding and clothing and open the bedroom door and window for ventilation, if it’s safe.
- Use a fan to cool the room if hot but don’t aim it directly towards the baby.
- Don’t place folded towels or blankets under travel cot mattresses to make them feel ‘more comfortable’. A baby’s mattress should be firm to help guard against suffocation.
- Make sure the travel cot isn’t against a radiator or in direct sunlight, and keep blind cords and other hazards out of the way.
- Keep your baby well hydrated in hot weather. Give bottle-fed babies cooled boiled water in addition to their usual milk feeds.
Travel cot safety: what every parent needs to know.