The SIDS and Kids Safe Sleeping program teaches parents how to create a safe sleeping environment for babies and young children.

1. Put the baby on the back to sleep, from birth

The chance of babies dying suddenly and unexpectedly is greater if they sleep on their tummies or sides. Healthy babies placed to sleep on the back are less likely to choke on vomit than tummy sleeping babies. In fact, sleeping the baby on the back actually provides airway protection.

Some babies, with rare medical conditions, might have to sleep on the tummy or side but only do this if the baby’s medical practitioner advises to do so in writing.

2. Sleep the baby with face uncovered

Ensure that the baby’s face and head stays uncovered during sleep. The best way to achieve this is to use a baby sleeping bag

However, if you decide to use blankets ensure that the baby’s feet are at the bottom of the cot, so that the baby can’t slip down under the blankets. Use lightweight blankets that can be tucked in securely.

Soft items in a baby’s sleeping environment can increase the risk of sudden unexpected infant death. It is best to remove quilts, doonas, duvets, pillows, cot bumpers, lambs wool and fluffy toys.

3. Avoid exposing the baby to tobacco smoke before birth and after.

Babies who are exposed to tobacco toxins during pregnancy or after birth have a significantly higher risk of SIDS and the risk increases if a baby sleeps with a parent who is a smoker. These risks still remain even if parents smoke outside, away from their baby.

To reduce the risk of SIDS don’t let anyone smoke near your baby – not in the house, the car or anywhere else that your baby spends time. If you want to quit smoking and you’re not finding it easy, ask for help. Call the Quit line on 131 848 or ask your doctor, midwife or child health nurse for information and advice.

4. Sleep the baby in a safe cot, with a safe mattress and in a safe environment.

Cots, mattresses and environments that are unsafe increase the risk of sudden unexpected infant death.

5. Sleeping the baby in a cot next to the parent’s bed for the first 6 to 12 months.

Research in New Zealand and the UK has shown that sleeping the baby in the same room, but not in the same bed, with the parents in the first six to twelve months of life is protective. This is thought to be because parents can see the baby and easily check to see that the baby is safe. This protective effect does not work if the baby is in the room with other children probably because the children do not know if the baby is safe or not. Recent evidence from the UK indicates that sharing the same room during the baby’s daytime sleeps is also protective.

Alternatives to sleeping the baby in a cot for the first few months

Bassinettes

There is no Australian Standard for bassinettes unlike cots. We are aware of reports of accidents associated with bassinette use. Australian and US government guidelines on ways to reduce these types of accidents include:

  • ensure that it has a wide stable base and that it is placed on a stable surface
  • remove all ribbons and ties to prevent strangulation
  • the sides should be at least 300 mm high measured from the top of the mattress base
  • use a firm mattress that is a snug fit and is not thicker than 75 mm Make sure the baby sleeps on the back with face uncovered. It may be better to use an infant sleeping bag when using a bassinette. Only use a lightweight blanket for additional warmth if it is possible to tuck blankets under the mattress.

Rocking cradles

If you are buying a rocking cradle, make sure that it complies with the safety requirements of the voluntary Australian standard AS/NZS 4385. Look for a label or sticker that says the rocking cradle complies with this voluntary standard. If there isn’t one, ask the retailer. If the retailer cannot verify that it complies, ask if there is an alternative that does comply.

Babies can become trapped in a tilted rocking cot or cradle. If you have a cradle or cot that rocks and has a child-resistant locking pin, make sure that you secure the locking pin firmly in place whenever you leave your baby and double check it make sure the cradle cannot move when you are not there to supervise. Ensure the cradle has a tilt limiter to limit the angle of tilt to no more than 10 degrees from the horizontal.

Hammocks

There is no Australian standard covering the use and manufacture of hammocks for the baby. While we are not aware of any research on the safety of hammocks or guidelines for their use for babies, we are aware of case and injury reports documenting a number of hospital admissions of infants following a fall from a hammock.

Babies sleeping in hammocks are at risk of incurring a falling injury. Babies should not be left unsupervised in these devices as they are not designed as an infant sleeping place.

Last Reviewed: 01/01/2010

Reproduced with kind permission from SIDSaustralia.