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SIDS and Safety

Reducing the risk of SIDS:

All new parents should receive information about SIDS (cot death) before or just after their baby is born. Official guidelines emphasise the following points for reducing the risk of SIDS:

  • Place your baby on its back to sleep, in a cot in a room with you
  • Do not smoke in pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
  • Do not share a bed with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you take drugs or if you are a smoker
  • Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair
  • Do not let your baby get too hot or too cold, keep your baby's head uncovered, and place your baby in the "feet to foot" position
  • Breastfeed your baby

NHS Choices and the The Lullaby Trust provide detailed and up to date information about reducing the risk of SIDS.

Bed-sharing safety:

Although most new parents think that they will never sleep with their baby, research shows that many do so for various reasons. On any given night a fifth of all UK babies spend at least part of the night sleeping with one or both of their parents.The prevalence and characteristics associated with parent-infant bed-sharing in England. Blair & Ball, 2004 In addition to the increased risk of SIDS that is associated with bed-sharing and smoking, alcohol and drug use, there is also a risk of accidents when adults sleep on the same surface as a baby. In order to reduce the chance of accidents it is important parents are informed about bed-sharing safety, whether or not they intend to do it, as parents sometimes fall asleep with their babies when they don't mean to - especially during night-time feeds.

Falling asleep with a baby on a sofa or an arm-chair is associated with wedging and compression accidents where babies are trapped between the furniture and their parent's body. Placing a baby alone on an adult bed is associated with accidents where babies fall and become trapped between the bed and a wall, or between the bars of an open headboard. Think about how to safety-proof your bed if you might possibly bed-share with your baby. La Leche League produces an information sheet with safety guidance for bed-sharing that can be purchased from their online shop. Information about bed-sharing safety is also available on the NCT website, and the UNICEF/FSID 'Sharing a Bed with you Baby' leaflet is still available on many websites, although now replaced by the new 'Caring for your baby at night' leaflet on the UNICEF website.

Cot-safety:

All new cots sold in the UK must meet European Safety Standards and should carry the British Standards Institution (BSI) number BS EN 716:2008, which indicates that they comply with the required safety standards. However hand-me-down or second-hand products may be defective, or produced before current safety standards were implemented. The Consumer's Association provides guidelines regarding safety of new and second-hand cots. In the US drop-sided cots have been banned since June 2011 due to infant deaths and product recalls; no such ban has been proposed for Europe.

Research has not found any link between mattresses and SIDS. FSID recommend cot mattresses should be clean and dry with no tears, cracks or holes, and if possible purchase a new mattress for each baby. The mattress should fit the cot without gaps. Consumer's Association provides guidance on these products. Think about where you place your baby's cot and ensure it is away from radiators, curtains, and hanging cords.

Click here for more detailed information about SIDS and sudden unexpected infant death (SUDI), and here for more information about SIDS risks.

Last modified: 20th December 2015