Safe Sleeping for Babies

Introduction

This page provides guidance for parents and carers of babies on safe sleeping.  The safest place for a baby to sleep for the first six months is on their back, in a separate cot or crib, in the same room as a parent or carer.  Actually sharing a sleeping space with your baby can be very dangerous to the baby as it increased the chances of dying by accidental suffocation.  Sadly, nationally over 300 babies a year die suddenly and unexpectedly from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  Whilst SIDS is rare, and rates have been falling in the UK, it can happen but there are steps parents can take to help reduce the risk.

Advice for parents of newborn babies

Parents and carers of newborn babies are being urged to follow the safe sleeping guidance below.

Do:

  • place babies gently on their backs up to the age of 6 months;
  • breastfeed your baby if possible;
  • use a firm, flat waterproof mattress in good condition;
  • ensure that the baby does not overheat due to too many covers or high room temperature;
  • keep the bedroom at a temperature that is comfortable  – around 18C (65F); and
  • always take baby out of their car seat when the journey is over and remove outdoor clothing once inside, even if this means waking them.

Things to avoid:

  • Do not leave baby asleep for long periods in travel systems or car seats;
  • Don’t use a pillow or cot bumper;
  • Don’t take risks – smoking, drinking alcohol and medication or drugs can induce heavy sleep in a parent/carer and further increase the risks; and
  • Don’t let  baby’s head become covered – covers should be securely tucked in, and reach no higher than the shoulders.

When your baby gets to the stage when they are potentially growing out of their cot, do seek advice from a health professional on the next stage of sleeping arrangements.  If you are moving to the use of a bed, ensure that it is a bed suitable for a toddler, not an adult bed and use the appropriate safety guards to prevent falls.

Health Professional Guidance

Health Visitors will visit parent and baby at home around the eleventh day after birth. At this time they give advice, support and information to ensure babies sleep safely.
Home visits, carried out by a midwife will include safe sleeping assessments, carried out within the first four weeks of a new baby’s life and the assessment and appropriate advice is recorded in your Parent Held Child Health Record (Red book).

If at any time, your baby is unwell, seek medical advice from your pharmacist, GP or NHS via 111.  They can provide health advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will listen to the symptoms and refer you to the most appropriate treatment or place to be treated. This may be the GP out of hours if it is out of GP practice hours. If they feel it necessary that your child needs to go to hospital they will call for an ambulance for you.

Get URGENT medical attention if your baby:

  • Stops breathing or goes blue
  • Is unresponsive and shows no awareness of what is going on
  • Has glazed eyes and does not focus on anything
  • Cannot be woken
  • Has a fit, even if your baby recovers without medical attention.

Call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Resources and Further Guidance

The Lullaby Trust provide a number of resources for parents and carers on safe sleeping.  These can be accessed via the links below:

They also provide detailed information on safer sleep factors such as back to sleep, bed sharing, room temperature, smoking, breast feeding, mattresses and bedding, dummies, swaddling and premature babies.

For further information, the Lullaby Trust can be contacted via 0808 802 6869 for information and advice, or via email info@lullabytrust.org.uk.  There is a specific helpline for Bereavement Support for parents – call 0808 802 6868.