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Reducing the risk of SIDS

What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

It is not known why some babies die suddenly and for no apparent reason from what is known as cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Experts do know that placing a baby to sleep on their back reduces the risk and that exposing a baby to cigarette smoke or overheating a baby increases the risk.


What causes SIDS?

We do not know what causes SIDS. However we know that the risk of SIDS can be significantly reduced by following safer sleep advice


How to reduce the risk of SIDS

SIDS is rare, so don't let worrying about it stop you enjoying your baby's first few months. Follow the advice below to reduce the risks as much as possible.

Place your baby on their back to sleep, in a cot in the room with you. Don't smoke during pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby.
Keep your baby's head uncovered. Their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders. Don't share a bed with your baby if you've been drinking alcohol, if you take drugs or if you are a smoker.
Place your baby in the 'feet to foot' position (with their feet at the end of the cot or pram). Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.
The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back in a cot in a room with you for the first six months. Don't let your baby get too hot.


Place your baby on their back to sleep

Place your baby on their back to sleep from the very beginning, for both day and night sleeps. This will reduce the risk of SIDS. It is not as safe for babies to sleep on their sides as on their backs. Healthy babies placed on their backs are not more likely to choke. When your baby is old enough to roll over, don't prevent them from doing so.



Babies exposed to cigarette smoke after birth are at increased risk of SIDS. Nobody should smoke in the house, including visitors.

Anyone who needs to smoke should go outside. Don't take your baby into smoky places, If you are a smoker sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of SIDS.


Don't 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.


  • When you check your baby, make sure they are not too hot, If your baby is sweating or their tummy feels hot to the touch, take off some of the bedding. Don't worry if your baby's hands or feet feel cool. This is normal.
  • It is easier to adjust for the temperature by using lightweight blankets. Remember, a folded blanket counts as two blankets.
  • Babies do no need hot rooms. All night heating is rarely necessary. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you at night. 
  • If it is very warm, Your baby may not need any bedclothes other than a sheet.
  • Even in winter, most babies who are unwell or feverish do not need extra clothes.
  • Babies should never sleep with a hot water bottle or electric blanket, next  to a radiator, heater or fire, or in direct sunshine.
  • Babies lose excess heat through their heads, so make sure their heads can't be covered by bedclothes during sleep periods.
  • Remove hats and extra clothing as soon as you come indoors or enter a warm car, bus or train, even if it means waking your baby.


Don't let your baby's head become covered

Babies whose heads are covered with bedding are at increased risk of SIDS. To prevent your baby wriggling down under the covers, place them in the 'feet to foot' position. This means that their feet are at the end of the crib, cot or pram.

  • Make the covers up so that they reach no higher than the shoulders. Tuck the covers in securely so that they can't slip over the baby's head. Use one or more layers of lightweight blankets.
  • Use a baby mattress that's firm, flat, well -fitting and clean, and waterproof on  the outside. Cover the mattress with a single sheet.
  • Don't use duvets, quilts, baby nests, wedges, bedding rolls or pillows.


Feeding and dummies

Breastfeeding your baby reduces the risk of SIDS.  It is possible that using a dummy at the start of any sleep period reduces the risk of SIDS, however , the evidence is not strong and not all experts agree that dummies should be promoted. Don't give your baby a dummy until breastfeeding is well established, usually when they are around one month old. Stop giving them the dummy when the are between 6 and 12 month old.


If your baby is unwell, seek medical help promptly

Babies often have minor illnesses, which you don't need to worry about. Give your baby plenty of fluids to drink and don't let them get too hot. If your baby sleeps a  lot, wake them up regularly for a drink.


Further sources of information