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helping your baby sleep safely

Having a new baby can be one of the most joyful times of your life. But, it can also be one of the most worrying as many parents are anxious about cot death. Fortunately, cot death is very rare these days. What's more, you have the power to make it even rarer. By following the advice in this leaflet, you can significantly reduce the risks and help your baby sleep as safely as possible.

what babies need for safe sleep

  • place your baby on their back to sleep, and not on their front or side.
  • the safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib or cot in a room with you for the first six months.
  • remember there are risks in sharing a bed with your baby.
  • cut smoking in pregnancy – fathers too! And don't let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby.
  • settling your baby to sleep – day and night – with a dummy can reduce the risk of cot death.
  • breastfeeding your baby helps reduce the risk of cot death
  • establish breastfeeding before starting to use a dummy.

questions and answers about safe sleep

The advice in this leaflet is based on scientific research and has helped reduce cot death rates by 75%.

what bedding should I use for my baby?

If your baby is under one year, never use a duvet, quilt or pillow. Instead, use light clothing and a baby sleeping bag or light blankets firmly tucked in no higher than the shoulders. Place your baby with their feet to the foot of the cot, to prevent them wriggling down under the covers.

how many blankets does my baby need?

It depends on how warm the room is and how thick the blankets are, but to check if your baby is too hot, look for sweating or feel the back of your baby's neck or their tummy. Don't worry if their hands or feet are cool – this is normal. If your baby is too hot, remove one or more layers of blankets. Use this chart as a guide.

how warm should my baby's room be?

Babies don't need hot rooms. In fact, the ideal room temperature is 16-20oC. All-night heating is rarely needed and babies should never sleep next to a radiator or in direct sunlight. Remember to keep your baby's head uncovered.

can I use a baby sleeping bag for my baby?

Yes, you can use a baby sleeping bag so long as it is the right size for your baby and also the right tog rating, so it's not too hot or too cold for your baby to wear depending on the time of year.

what kind of mattress should I use?

It is very important that your baby's mattress is kept clean and dry. Ideally, you should buy a new mattress for each new baby.

Recent medical research suggests there may also be an increase risk of cot death if a baby is sleeping on a mattress previously used by a baby from another home.

This seems to be largely down to the bacteria that can be found in used cot mattresses. The research is not saying there is a definite risk from used mattresses but the way of avoiding a potential risk is to use a new mattress for every new baby.

can my baby share my bed?

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot or crib in your bedroom for the first six months. There is a proven risk in sharing a bed with your baby if you (or your partner) smoke even if you never smoke in bed or at home, have been drinking alcohol, taken drugs or medication that make you drowsy, or if you feel very tired. There is also a risk in bed-sharing if your baby was born prematurely, was small at birth or is less than three months old.