Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – sometimes known as "cot death" – is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby.
In the UK, around 200 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly every year. This statistic may sound alarming, but SIDS is rare and the risk of your baby dying from it is low.
The Welsh Government have produced a leaflet with advice on safe sleeping for babies to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (cot death). Please click here
The Lullaby Trust provides expert advice on safer baby sleep and raises awareness of sudden infant death. Much of their information and videos have been included on this page, but additional information can be found on the Lullaby Trust website: Please click here
This safer sleep advice gives simple steps for you to follow to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It can give you the peace of mind to enjoy this special time.
This advice is based on strong scientific evidence and should be followed for all sleep periods, not just at night.
All your baby needs for a safer night’s sleep - The best sleeping position for your baby
Always put your baby on their back for every sleep, day and night, as the chance of SIDS is particularly high for babies who are sometimes placed on their front or side
Please see videos below for further information
It is important to make sure that your baby’s room is a comfortable temperature – not too hot or too cold. The chance of SIDS is higher in babies who get too hot. Try to keep the room temperature between 16 -20°C.
Please click here for further information
Some parents choose to share a bed (also known as co-sleeping) with their babies. It is important for you to know how to do this safely and that there are some circumstances in which bed-sharing with your baby can be very dangerous
Experts do know placing a baby to sleep on their back reduces the risk, and exposing a baby to cigarette smoke or allowing them to overheat increases the risk. It's also known there's an association between sleeping with your baby on a bed, sofa or chair (co-sleeping) and SIDS.
Follow the advice on this page to reduce the risks as much as possible.
How to reduce the risk of SIDS
To reduce the risk of SIDS:
Place your baby on their back to sleep
Do not let your baby's head become covered
Babies whose heads are covered with bedding are at an increased risk of SIDS.
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.
To put your baby in the feet to foot position:
If you use a sling or carrier, make sure you use it safely.
The Lullaby Trust has more information and advice about swaddling your baby and using slings. Please click here
Do not let your baby get too hot or too cold
Overheating can increase the risk of SIDS. Babies can overheat because of too much bedding or clothing, or because the room is too hot.
Do not share a bed with your baby
The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first 6 months is in a cot in the same room as you.
It's especially important not to share a bed with your baby if you or your partner:
The risks of co-sleeping are also increased if your baby:
As well as a higher risk of SIDS, there's also a risk you might roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby.
Your baby could also get caught between the wall and the bed, or roll out of an adult bed and be injured.
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.
Do not let anyone smoke near your baby
Babies exposed to cigarette smoke before and after birth are at an increased risk of SIDS. Do not let anyone smoke in the house, including visitors.
Ask anyone who needs to smoke to go outside. Do not take your baby into smoky places.
If you smoke, sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of cot death.
Get help and support if you want to quit smoking. Please click here.
Feeding, dummies and SIDS
Breastfeeding your baby reduces the risk of SIDS.
It's possible using a dummy at the start of a sleep also reduces the risk of SIDS. But the evidence is not strong and not all experts agree that dummies should be promoted.
If you do use a dummy, do not start until breastfeeding is well established. This is usually when your baby is around 1 month old.
Stop giving them the dummy when they're between 6 and 12 months old.
Get medical help quickly if your baby is unwell
Babies often have minor illnesses that you do not need to worry about.
Give your baby plenty of fluids to drink and do not let them get too hot. If your baby sleeps a lot, wake them up regularly for a drink.
It can be difficult to judge whether an illness is more serious and needs urgent medical attention.
See spotting the signs of serious illness for guidance on when to get help. Please click here
The safest place for your baby to sleep is a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months, even during the day.
Place your baby to sleep in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months, even during the day.
A large study of evidence from across Europe found that the risk of sudden infant death was significantly reduced when the infant slept in the same room, but not the same bed, as the parents.
The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first 6 months is in a separate cot or Moses basket in the same room as you
The chance of SIDS is lower when babies sleep in a separate cot in the same room as their parents
Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
Sleeping on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby is one of the most high-risk situations for them.
Studies have found that sharing a sofa or armchair with a baby whilst you both sleep is associated with an extremely high risk of SIDS. One study found that approximately one-sixth of infants in England and Wales who died of SIDS were found sleeping with an adult on a sofa.
Make sure that you do not accidentally fall asleep with your baby on a sofa. If you think you might fall asleep, put the baby down in a safe place to sleep.
If you are breastfeeding, have your partner stay up with you, breastfeed in a different position where you are confident you might not fall asleep, or feed the baby somewhere else.
Click here to download Bed Sharing Fact sheet
Click here to download Back to Sleep Fact sheet
It is essential for safety that babies travel in a car seat. However, it is recommended that you avoid travelling in cars with pre-term and young babies for long distances. Research into the link between car seats and SIDS found young babies may be at risk of breathing difficulties if they travel while sitting in an upright position for too long.
For more information on car seats and SIDS please click here
If you choose to swaddle your baby or use a sling it is very important to follow guidelines to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Swaddling your baby
Swaddling is a common practice used to help settle young babies and promote sleep. We recognise that in some parts of the world this is also referred to as wrapping, but in the UK is referred to as swaddling. Parents/carers who wish to swaddle should be informed how to do this correctly to reduce the chance of SIDS:
Swaddles should not be applied very tightly around the hips as this is strongly associated with developmental dysplasia of the hip. However, the swaddle should also be secure enough not to come apart, as loose soft bedding can increase the chance of SIDS if pulled over a baby’s head, causing a baby to over-heat or obstruct their breathing.
There are various swaddle products on the market for example swaddle blankets, swaddle sacks and swaddle bags. We can’t comment on their safety but parents/carers need to ensure the products meets necessary safety standards. They should be well fitted.
Parent/Carers should ensure they follow the product guidance. Some swaddle manufacturers recommend their product is used when a baby is a certain weight, rather than age so it is best to check on the swaddle product they choose to use.
We do not advise on a specific tog rating for swaddle products, we advise parents/carers to use a lower tog rating/lightweight to reduce the chance of baby overheating.
Using slings and baby-carriers
Slings and baby-carriers are useful for holding a baby hands-free, however they are not always used safely. Although there is no reliable evidence that slings are directly associated with SIDS, there have been a number of deaths worldwide where infants have suffered a fatal accident from the use of a sling. These accidents are particularly due to suffocation, and particularly in young infants.
The risk appears to be greatest when a baby’s airway is obstructed either by their chin resting on their chest or their mouth and nose being covered by a parent’s skin or clothing.
The safest baby carrier to use will keep the infant firmly in an upright position where a parent can always see their baby’s face, and ensure their airways are free. Complete guidance is available by visiting The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
When wearing a sling or baby carrier, keep in mind the TICKS guidelines: