Safe Sleeping

Th​e safest way for your baby to sleep is on the back. Babies who sleep on their backs are safer and healthier. It is not safe for babies to sleep on their fronts or sides.  Babies settle more easily on their backs if they have been placed to sleep that way from the very first day.  If your baby is less than six months old and you find him asleep on his tummy, gently turn him onto his back. Don’t feel you need to keep getting up all night to check on this. After this age, babies can usually roll onto their backs themselves so leave him to find his own position. Whatever your baby’s age always place them to sleep on the back. Premature babies are slept on the front in hospital for special medical reasons. If your baby was born prematurely then make sure you keep her safe by sleeping her on the back when you take her home from hospital unless your doctor advises a different sleep position.

It can be dangerous if your baby’s head gets covered when she sleeps. Place her with her feet to the foot of the cot, with the bedclothes firmly tucked in and no higher than her shoulders, so she can’t wriggle down under the covers. Don’t worry if she wriggles up and gets uncovered. You can also use a baby sleep bag.

There are dangers in bed sharing

The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first six months is in a crib or cot in a room with you.

It’s especially dangerous for your baby to sleep in your bed if you (or your partner):

are a smoker (even if you never smoke in bed or at home)

have been drinking alcohol

take medication or drugs that make you drowsy

feel very tired; or if your baby:

was premature (born before 37 weeks)

was low birth weight (less than 2.5kg or 5½lb).

Don’t forget, accidents can happen:

you might roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby

your baby could get caught between the wall and the bed

your baby could roll out of your bed and be injured.

It’s very dangerous to sleep together with a baby on a sofa, armchair or settee and it is also risky to sleep a baby alone in an adult bed.

Breastfeed your baby and it will help keep him safe

It’s the natural and best way to feed him and it increases his resistance to infection.

Settle your baby with a dummy

Using a dummy every time you settle your baby to sleep — day and night — can reduce the risk of cot death. If breastfeeding, do not give a dummy until breastfeeding is well–established.

Premature or sick babies in hospital may be given a dummy before breastfeeding is started and parents should follow doctors’ advice.

Don’t worry if the dummy falls out while your baby is asleep, and don’t force him to take a dummy if he doesn’t want it. Never coat the dummy in anything sweet.

Gradually wean him off a dummy after six months and before one year.

Babies don’t need especially warm rooms.

All–night heating is rarely necessary. Babies should never sleep next to a radiator or in direct sunlight.

To keep an eye on the temperature buy a simple room thermometer, available for £2.75. Please call 020 7802 3200 or go to to order.

To check if your baby is too hot, look for sweating or feel your baby — don’t worry if his hands or feet are cool; that’s normal. If he’s too hot, remove one or more layers of blankets. Babies who are unwell need fewer — not more — bedclothes.

Choose lightweight blankets and clothing for sleep

If your baby is under a year old:

don’t use a duvet, quilt or pillow

don’t use electric blankets or hot water bottles

use one or more layers of light blankets or use a baby sleep bag.

If you decide to swaddle your baby, don’t cover her head and only use thin materials. If you use a sheepskin, take it away as soon as your baby starts trying to roll onto her tummy.

If you use a baby sleep bag, it needs to be without a hood, very lightweight and the right size around the neck so your baby won’t slip down inside the bag. Never use with a duvet.

Sleep your baby on a firm, clean, dry mattress

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. If you are not able to do this, use the one you have as long as it was made with a completely waterproof cover (e.g. PVC) and has no tears, cracks or holes. Clean it thoroughly and dry it.

Check that the mattress:

is in good condition

fits the cot without any gaps

is firm, not soft

doesn’t sag.

Never sleep your baby on a pillow, cushion, beanbag, or waterbed. Never sleep together with your baby on a sofa. Make sure the cot is in good condition particularly if it’s second hand or old. Check the gaps between the bars are less than 6.5cm, and the space between the mattress and cot is no more than 3cm. If you use a Moses basket, it should have only a thin lining.

What if your baby keeps crying?
Some babies cry more than others. If crying continues, check that it is not due to the usual things — hunger, thirst, wet nappy, being too hot or too cold — and then if rocking or cuddling doesn’t settle your baby, talk to your health visitor or doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family or your health visitor if it all gets too much.

Never shake your baby or put anything over his mouth.

Don’t let anyone smoke in your home

Babies are healthier if they are kept smoke–free. Cut smoking in pregnancy — dad too. The only way to keep babies smoke free is never to smoke in the home. Your baby is still at risk if you open windows, smoke in a different room, or use a fan, vaporiser or ioniser. Ask visitors to smoke outside. Don’t take your baby into smoky places. If your friends or relatives object, show them this booklet!

Take care of your baby’s health

Have your baby immunised and go for checkups. Babies often have minor illnesses. If your baby is unwell, make sure he is not too hot and drinks plenty of fluids — wake him for regular drinks if necessary.

Don’t let people with colds get too near your baby and if you are unwell wash your hands before you pick him up. If you are worried, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your health visitor or doctor (see the back cover for a list of signs of serious illness).

Keep an eye on your baby when they are eating and drinking

Breastfeed your baby. It’s the natural and best way to feed her and increases her resistance to infection.

Wash your hands before feeding your baby and, if you are bottle–feeding your baby, make sure the bottle and teats are properly sterilised. Always test the heat of food or drink before giving it to your baby to make sure it’s not too hot. Don’t heat your baby’s food or milk in a microwave.

When feeding from a spoon, either sit your baby up on your lap or put her in a highchair with a harness if she is big enough. Place highchairs out of reach of objects on the table or kitchen counter which she could pull over and hurt herself with. Make sure your baby can’t reach hot drinks or pan handles that she could pull down. Don’t hold a baby when you’ve got a hot drink in your hand.

Without a smoke alarm you could get stuck inside

Smoke alarms save lives.

If a fire breaks out an extra few seconds can make a real difference. It’s best to have at least two smoke alarms

Plan the way you would escape a fire with your baby

Don’t let children play with matches or lighters

Contact your local fire brigade for information on fire prevention

Keep your baby away from fires and heaters, hot water pipes and radiators. Use fireguards.

Keep the water thermostat on a low setting.

Keep the iron out of your baby’s reach, including when it is cooling down.

Keep your baby away from water and direct sunlight

Always use a properly fitted baby car seat that is the right size for your baby. Never put your baby in the front of a car with passenger air bags. Do not use a second hand car seat as you cannot be sure it was not damaged in an accident with the previous owner. Do not let your baby sleep in his car seat in your home.

Never leave your baby alone in a car. Make sure your baby isn’t in direct sunlight and doesn’t get too hot. Don’t smoke in the car.

Use a harness for your baby in pushchairs and baby buggies. Don’t put shopping bags on the handles.

Even a few centimetres of water are dangerous to babies so make sure your baby can’t roll or crawl to any ponds, puddles, buckets or garden pots that fill with rainwater. Constantly supervise small children near water.

In cold weather remove hats and extra layers of clothing from your baby when you come in from outdoors, or go into warm places such as a car, bus, train or shop.

I want to play on my tummy

Babies should have plenty of opportunity to play on their front, so their muscles develop properly and to avoid misshapen heads. Keep an eye on them at all times.
It’s lovely to have your baby in bed with you for a cuddle or a feed, or to play. But put her back in her own cot before you go to sleep.

Only let your baby play with toys intended for their age. Even a bright baby can get into difficulties with the wrong type of toy.

Make sure that heavy objects are on a solid surface and can’t be pulled over. Keep small objects like buttons, peanuts and pills out of your baby’s reach in case she chokes on them.

Keep your baby’s seat or bouncer on the floor so your baby can’t bounce her way off a high surface.

It’s best to change your baby’s nappy on the floor. If you use a raised surface, get everything ready from the start and don’t leave your baby for a moment.

Make sure the place where your baby plays is safe

As soon as your baby can crawl, use stair gates at the top and bottom of staircases.

Do not use a baby walker as they lead to accidents.

Make sure your baby cannot reach cords on curtains or window blinds. Don’t let your baby get into contact with any type of ribbons or string which could strangle him. Don’t tie a dummy around your baby’s neck.

Move furniture such as beds, sofas and chairs away from windows to prevent babies from climbing up and falling out.

Let the phone ring

Never leave your baby alone in a bath — not even for a second. Don’t leave an older child to look after her. If the phone rings, ignore it or take your baby with you to answer it.

If you use a bath seat or support you still need to be with your baby at all times.

Avoid burns and scalds by:

keeping the hot thermostat turned down

running cold water first into the bath

using a bath thermometer or testing the water temperature with your arm.

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