Place your baby on the back to sleep from the very beginning. This will reduce the risk of cot death. Side sleeping is not as safe as sleeping on the back. Healthy babies placed on their backs are NOT more likely to choke. Read more about the official guidelines for reducing cot death here.
Place your baby on the back to sleep
Babies may get flattening of the part of the head they lie on. This is because their heads are still soft and can take as long as six months to harden. Any flattening will become rounder again as they grow. Babies should sometimes lie on their tummies to play during the day, when they are awake. This helps them to develop their neck muscles in preparation for crawling. Keep an eye on them when they are on their tummies and gently turn them onto their backs should they fall asleep.
It is possible (but not yet proven) that using a dummy/pacifier at the start of any sleep reduces the risk of cot death however if you are breastfeeding do not give a dummy until your baby is at least one month old to ensure that breastfeeding is well established.
At around five or six months it is normal for babies to roll over and they should not be prevented from doing so. This is the age at which cot death falls rapidly, but still put your baby to sleep on the back.
Don’t Let ANYONE smoke in the same room as your baby.
Smoking in pregnancy increases the risk of cot death. It is best not to smoke at all. Babies exposed to cigarette smoke after birth are also at an increased risk of cot death. It is best if NOBODY smokes in the house. Make it clear to anyone wishing to smoke that they should go outside and do not take your baby into smoky places.
Don’t Let your baby get too hot or too cold.
Overheating may increase the risk to your baby. They may overheat because of too much bedding or clothing or even because the room is too hot. Remember, if you fold a blanket-it counts as two blankets.
When you check your baby, if he is sweating or their tummy feels hot to the touch, take off some of the bedding. Don’t worry if baby’s hands and feet feel cold, this is normal!
It is easier to adjust the temperature with changes of lightweight blankets. There are also wonderful baby sleeping bags on the market which have tog ratings and even tell you how many layers to add or take away accordingly if you use them. Babies do not need hot rooms, all night heating is rarely necessary. Just keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you.
About 18C (65F) is comfortable.
Look at this handy table (for a baby wearing a nappy, vest and babygro plus a sheet.):
In summer, your baby may not need any bedclothes other than a sheet.
Babies who are unwell or feverish need fewer clothes. They loose excess heat from their heads, so make sure their head cannot be covered with bedclothes.
Babies should NEVER sleep with a hot water bottle or electric blanket, next to a radiator, heater or fire or in direct sunshine.
Remove hats and extra clothing as soon as you come indoors or enter a warm car, bus or train, even if it means waking your baby.
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in a room with you for the first six months
To prevent your baby wriggling down under the covers, place your baby feet to foot in the crib, cot or pram. Make the covers up so that they can reach no higher than the shoulders. Covers should be securely tucked in so they cannot slip over the baby’s head. Baby sleeping bags are useful in combating this problem as babies are zipped into them and they are unable to kick off the covers or pull them over their heads.
If you share a bed with your baby the risks are increases especially if you or your partner are a smoker, have recently drunk alcohol, or are medication. The risk is also higher if your baby was premature, had a low birth weight or is under three months old.
Sleep your baby on a firm, clean well-fitting mattress. Cover the mattress with a single sheet. Use sheets and light weight blankets but not duvets, quilts, baby nests, bedding rolls or pillows.
Remember that while it is lovely to have your baby with you for a cuddle or feed, it’s safest to put your baby back in their cot before you go to sleep.
7 tips for reducing the risk of cot death
Cot death is rare, so please don’t let worry about it stop you enjoying your baby’s first few months. Research is continuing to help us understand more about cot death, and since 1991 the number of babies dying has reduced by over 70%-after parents and carers started following these risk-reduction guidelines
So keep in mind these 7 tips for reducing the risk of cot death and look forward to more peaceful sleep!
For more information , please send a large self- addressed envelope to:
The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), Artillery House, 11-19 Artillery Row, London, SW1P 1 RT
with thanks for information from the Department of Health
I am a preschool and primary school teacher and mum to 3 children. I have been involved in education since 1997 and have trained in a variety of educational specialist areas. It is with this expertise that I write articles to help parents and educators provide quality learning experiences for the children in their care.