Safe Sleep Environments
Keeping your baby safe when sleeping means reducing risks in their sleeping environment. Though not everything can be controlled, reducing risk factors helps to keep your child safe.
You’ll find different risks arise at different ages and stages. You can reduce risks by:
- Following SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) guidelines
- Keeping the cot sides up when your child is in the cot
- Do this no matter their age
- Ensuring cot sides are higher than your child’s standing height
- Keeping the cot or bed away from blind and curtain cords
- Removing necklaces and cords when your baby is sleeping
- This includes dummy chains and/or cords
- Avoiding sharing a bed with your baby
- Avoiding overheating your baby with bedding and room heaters
- Feeding your baby outside the cot or bed
- It’s preferable for you to hold them
- Ensuring prams and cots meet Australian standards
- Never leaving your baby unattended/alone in a pram or stroller
- Managing your own stress with deep breaths
- Rocking, touching and kind words
- Make sure you're gentle, no matter how upset or
frustrated you may feel
Frequently Asked Questions
What is SIDS?
In 2017, 87 deaths were categorised as sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This statistic represents an 85% reduction in deaths since the introduction of SIDS research and recommendations in 1989.
Sudden infant death syndrome is the sudden and unexpected death of an infant under one year of age. It occurs during sleep and remains unexplained. Current studies suggest there are three factors that interact to cause SIDS. These include:
- A vulnerable infant
- A critical developmental period
- Exposing babies to risk factors
Though you can’t control all these things, you can reduce risk factors by following the safe sleeping recommendations.
What are the safe sleeping recommendations?
Follow the six, key guidelines for safe sleeping as recommended by Red Nose.
1. Sleep your baby on their back from birth
- Not on the tummy or side
2. Sleep your baby with the head and face uncovered
3. Keep your baby in a smoke-free environment
- Before and after birth
4. Provide a safe sleeping environment for your baby day and night
5. Sleep your baby in their own safe sleeping space
- Keep them in your room or with an
adult caregiver for the first six to
6. Breastfeed your baby if possible
How do I make my baby's cot safe for sleeping?
The following image will help guide you through creating a safe sleeping space in your baby’s cot.
- Ensure your cot or bassinette meets the Australian Standard
- Have a firm, flat, well-fitting mattress
- Not tilted or elevated
- Have a breathable mattress, blanket and cover
- Remove the plastic mattress cover
- Don’t have bumpers, pillows, doonas, lambswool or toys in the cot
- Sleep your baby on their back
- Position your baby’s feet at the bottom of the cot
- Tuck in blankets firmly
- Do not put your baby to sleep on a waterbed, beanbag or couch
- Never use hot water bottles, electric blankets or wheat bags
What are some developmental risk factors?
Once your baby begins to roll:
It’s important they’re not wrapped for sleep - this creates an unsafe sleeping environment and puts them at risk of being unable to free their arms to lift or move their head once they’ve rolled onto their stomach. You can replace your baby’s wrap with a cotton sleeping bag that has holes for arms. Choose one with a fitted neck, armholes or sleeves with no hood, and check your baby can’t slip inside the bag and become completely covered. Remove any necklaces, cords and bibs when your baby sleeps.
Once your baby begins to move in their cot:
It’s important to leave the cot sides up at all times. If your toddler begins to climb from their cot, then it’s time to introduce them to a bed. Keep heaters and electrical appliances well away from your baby’s cot to avoid risks of overheating, burns and electrocution. Cover power points so your child cannot access them. Make sure there are no cords or drawstrings within easy reach. It’s also important not to place your child’s cot or bed near windows that can be easily opened.
Is it safe to share a sleep surface with my baby?
Sharing a sleep surface with your child can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and fatal sleep accidents. Often, parents and carers will settle their baby to sleep on a sofa or couch, or fall asleep with their baby unintentionally. The risk of a sleeping accident increases when this happens as the baby may become wedged between cushions or into the sofa. Other risks include rolling onto your baby by you or your partner under the influence of alcohol or sedating drugs, entrapment or wedging between the mattress and another object like a wall and suffocation from pillows and blankets.
The safest place for babies to sleep is in their own safe sleeping place in your room, or in the room of an adult caregiver. We recommend sleeping your baby in a cot next to your bed for the first six to twelve months of life.
What's the safest way for my twins to sleep?
Having your twins share the same sleep surface might be encouraged with the belief it promotes a bond and reduces stress. However, there is no compelling evidence for the benefit of co-sleeping, and therefore it is not recommended. Doing so increases the risk of overheating and rebreathing, therefore increasing the danger of SIDS. Another risk that arises with twins is that size difference increases the chance of suffocation. Co-sleeping twins is hazardous if one twin’s body part accidentally covers the face of the other, causing an interference with breathing.
Karitane Tip: The safest way for twins to sleep is in their own safe sleeping space. We do not recommend placing them in the same cot or bassinette.
Wrapping your Baby
The reflexes of newborn babies often startle them easily and tend to wake them during sleep. Many parents have found that wrapping babies until they’re three to four months old (the time when these reflexes begin to disappear) helps reduce strong startle reactions and improves sleep.Learn More