Skip to content

Safe Baby Sleeping Practices

Written by Amina Hatia RM
Medically reviewed by Marley Hall BA RM Diphe
January 15, 2021

Safe Baby Sleeping Practices

Safe baby sleeping practices are simple direct ways that you prevent your newborn from choking, suffocating, or experiencing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

If you are expecting or are the parent of a newborn, do not fear – there are well established, commonly agreed upon measures you can take to drastically reduce the chance of something happening while your newborn sleeps.  In fact, since safer sleeping practices have been adopted among parents, there has been a steady decline in infant mortality since 1990.

By adopting the following safe baby sleeping practices, you can reduce the risk and help keep your baby safe and well.

 Avoid stomach sleeping

Laying a baby on his or her back has made a significant difference in infant deaths since it first started being advised in 1990. A baby laying on his or her stomach can cause overheating, suffocation, or SIDS.

Even though your baby may prefer to sleep on his or her stomach, where it is more comfortable, that same comfort may make it easier for them to suffocate. When a baby sleeps on his or her back, they will  sleep more lightly and be more aware of the discomfort of not being able to breathe.

As soon as your baby is able to roll onto his or her stomach all by his or her self, then it is safe to let your baby sleep on their stomach.

Never sleep with a baby on a sofa or armchair

It’s lovely to have your baby with you for a cuddle or a feed, but sleeping with your baby on a sofa or armchair is linked to a higher risk of SIDS. 

It’s safest to put your baby back in their cot before you go to sleep.

Avoid bed sharing

During the first year the safest place for baby to sleep is in the same room as you in their own crib/cot/basket. Research has even shown that room sharing decreases the chance of SIDS by 50 percent. Just make sure you are not sharing the same sleeping surface.

As tempting as it can be to let your baby sleep in bed with you, especially if he or she can’t sleep otherwise, try to resist it. A bassinet or crib in your bedroom near where you sleep is ideal.  All crib or cot mattresses should be new, even if you have only used it for a previous baby and ensure it meets current safety standards, including if there have been recalls. If you feel like you need to bed share, ensure you following appropriate safety guidelines set out by the Lullaby Trust

Make sure too that your crib or bassinet has a firm sleep surface, a tight-fitting sheet, and that there are no crib bumpers, sleep positioners, blankets, pillows, or soft toys. Basically, your baby’s bed should be completely bare. Do not use portable crib rails, and remove hanging window cords and any nearby electrical wires.

Remember it is best for baby to sleep in a cot or crib – baby sleeping any length of time in a carrier, sling, car seat or stroller should be avoided. If your baby does fall asleep in one of these, then transfer to a crib or cot as soon as possible.

Don’t let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby

Babies exposed to cigarette smoke before and after birth are at an increased risk of SIDS. Don’t let anyone smoke in the house, including visitors.

Ask anyone who needs to smoke to go outside. Don’t take your baby into smoky places.

If you’re a smoker, sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of cot death.

Dress your baby appropriately for sleep

Your baby probably has no shortage of beautiful bedtime clothing, but it’s important they are dressed safely for sleeping. Dress your baby in light sleep clothes, as you don’t want them to overheat.

Overheating can increase the risk of SIDS. Babies can overheat because of too much bedding or clothing, or because the room’s too hot.

When you check your baby, make sure they’re not too hot. If your baby’s sweating or their tummy feels hot to the touch, take off some of the bedding. Don’t worry if their hands or feet feel cool – this is normal.

It’s easier to adjust for the temperature by using layers of lightweight blankets. Remember, a folded blanket counts as 2 blankets. Lightweight, well-fitting baby sleeping bags are a good choice, too.

Babies don’t need hot rooms. Keep the room at a temperature that’s comfortable for you at night – about 18C (65F) is ideal.

Don’t let your baby’s head become covered

Babies whose heads are covered with bedding are at an increased risk of SIDS.  Babies lose excess heat through their heads, so make sure their heads can’t be covered by bedclothes while they’re asleep.

Keep baby’s head uncovered indoors and take hats off as soon as you come in to prevent overheating.

When sleeping, to prevent your baby wriggling down under the covers, place them in the “feet to foot” position. This means their feet are at the end of the crib, cot or Moses basket.

You can swaddle your baby for sleep, up until that milestone where your baby can roll over to his or her tummy. If you swaddle, just make sure you don’t lay your baby on his or her stomach, as that can increase the chance of SIDS and that baby is able to move their arms if they want too.

Breastfeeding, dummies and SIDS

Breastfeeding your baby reduces the risk of SIDS.

Studies have shown that pacifiers/dummies may also help to decrease the risk of SIDS. Just make sure if you’re breastfeeding to wait until your baby is 3-4 weeks old and accustomed to breastfeeding before giving him or her a pacifier/dummy. It’s okay if the pacifier/dummy falls out, but do not attach the pacifier to your baby’s clothing or even to a stuffed animal.

There is so much to learn as a new mother or father, but don’t let these risks daunt you. By you and your partner communicating about these risks and how to avoid them through practicing routine, simple measures, you should be just fine.