Reducing the risks of cot death

There are many different reasons why babies do not sleep. It is normal for a baby not to sleep through the night. Feel confident in yourself to know whether your child is really distressed, uncomfortable (maybe they need changing) or just restless. Trust your instincts and respond to their needs. It is important to breastfeed at night when you produce more hormones in order to build up your milk supply.

Place your newborn baby on their back to sleep, in a cot in your bedroom for the first six months. Adult beds are not designed for babies or toddlers and do not conform to safety standards.

You can help your baby to sleep safe and sound by keeping the temperature in their room between 16-20°C. A basic room thermometer will help you to keep an eye on the temperature.

Reading to your child at bedtime helps them to unwind, and gives you some special time together. If your child is scared of the dark, try keeping a night light on.

How can I get my baby in a routine?

Bed sharing with your baby is never completely safe. It is particularly 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 or taken any drugs.

  • Have taken any medication that makes you drowsy.

  • If your baby was premature (born before 37 weeks).

  • If your baby was low birth weight (less than 2.5kg).

  • If you or your partner are overweight.

It is very dangerous to fall asleep with your baby on a sofa, armchair or settee and it is also risky to allow a baby to sleep alone in an adult bed.

A safe sleeping environment

  1. Place your baby in the feet-to-foot position i.e. baby’s feet at the foot of the cot.

  2. Newborn babies should sleep in a cot in parents’ bedroom or room where you are during the day for at least the first six months.

  3. Avoid letting your baby get too hot.

  4. Put baby to sleep on their back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death.

  5. Keep baby’s head uncovered.

  6. Do not smoke and keep the house smokefree.

  7. Do not place any pillows, quilts, duvets, stuffed animals, toys or bumper pads in the cot.

  8. No heavy or loose blankets.

  9. If a blanket is used, it must be tucked in and only as high as the baby’s shoulders.

  10. Crib sheets must fit tightly over mattress.

  11. Use a clean, firm, well-fitting mattress. Mattresses should carry the BSI number BS-1877-10:1997.

  12. These apply to day time and night time naps and sleeps.



Source: DoH, UNICEF

Where should my baby sleep?


How do I help develop good sleeping patterns?


In the early months sleep is important for health development. Understand how to prevent sleep problems occuring.


If you would like further support contact your HV team on 020 8770 5409 or email