A safe, warm and uncluttered sleep place for your baby is important. Otherwise they could roll face-down and suffocate on soft surfaces (such as couches, chairs or adult beds).
Settling your baby to sleep in their own safe place on their back, with their face clear, helps reduce the risk of suffocation.
Safe sleeping space
In the first year of life, babies should have their own sleeping space. Every sleep should be in baby’s own bed.
- Don’t let baby sleep on a sofa, alone or with an adult or child.
- If baby falls asleep in a car seat or capsule, make sure you take them out and put them to sleep in their own bed when you get home.
- Babies are safest when they sleep in the same room that their parents sleep in for the first six months.
Be careful where you lie with your baby – parents of young babies are often tired, and you could accidentally fall asleep with baby in an unsafe sleeping space.
Always allow babies to breathe air free of smoke – never allow anyone to smoke in baby’s bedroom or in the car with baby.
Safe cot and mattress
For the first year of life, baby should sleep on a firm, flat and level surface with no pillow.
Make sure baby’s cot is away from walls, windows and heaters, and is freestanding in the room.
To keep baby’s cot safe, make sure that:
- baby can’t get their arms, legs or head trapped – the bars of the cot should be 5–8.5 cm apart
- the cot has no loose or missing pieces – broken cots are dangerous cots
- baby’s clothes can’t get caught on high corner posts (or they might strangle) – the corner posts of the cot should not stick up more than 5 cm
- the top of the cot side is at least 50 cm above the top of the mattress
- the paint on the cot is not lead based – if you’re using an old cot, get information on lead-based paints from your Well Child nurse.
Make sure the mattress:
- is clean, firm, flat and comfortable
- fits the cot snugly – the gap between the mattress and the cot should be less than 2.5 cm, so that baby can’t get trapped or wedged in the gap
- doesn’t get damp – put it in the sunshine, or take it out of the bed regularly.
If you’ve got a new mattress, make sure to remove the plastic wrapping – this could suffocate your baby.
Waterbeds are not suitable for a baby, because they may suffocate by rolling onto their stomach with their face into the mattress.
Keep baby’s face clear
Always place baby to sleep on their back.
Keep your baby’s face clear of the covers by:
- tucking them in
- making up the cot so that your baby sleeps with their feet at the foot of the cot, to stop them slipping down under the covers.
Cot bumper pads may suffocate or strangle a baby. Pillows and toys are also dangerous and should be kept out the cot.
Loose ribbons, ties or threads on a baby’s clothes may also be dangerous.
Keeping baby warm and comfortable
Your baby should be warm in bed, not too hot or too cold.
Make sure that the room they sleep in:
- is well aired, with the door open (especially if you use a heater)
- is at a temperature that feels comfortable to you without wearing extra layers
- is not too hot – if you’re using a heater, an electric heater with a thermostat is best (fan heaters may overheat the room and gas heaters can give off dangerous fumes).
To make sure your baby is warm enough in bed:
- put a blanket under the bottom sheet, and a blanket or blankets on top to keep them warm
- check your baby’s back using two fingers. If it’s warm, your baby is warm enough. If their back is hot, take off some covers
- you can heat the bed with a hot-water bottle, but make sure you remove it before you put baby to bed
- don’t use a wheat bag to heat baby’s bed – wheat bags can overheat and burn.
Sheepskins can collect dust mites, so they’re not suitable if your family/whānau has a history of asthma or allergy. If you want to use a sheepskin, use a short-hair type and cover it with a sheet.
Sharing a bed with baby (bed-sharing/co-sleeping)
Sharing a bed with baby puts them at risk of suffocating.
If you choose to sleep in a bed with your baby, give them their own sleep space – for example, a pēpi-pod, wahakura or Moses basket. This will help reduce their risk of suffocating while they are asleep.
Don’t let your baby share a bed with anyone who:
- is very tired
- takes sleeping pills
- is under the influence of alcohol or social drugs.
Babies should not bed-share if their mother smoked during pregnancy.
Swaddling can reduce crying, and help babies sleep better. It can also stop baby being able to move freely and affect their temperature control.
How you swaddle your baby can make it a safe or unsafe practice.
If you do swaddle your baby make sure:
- baby is on their back
- you use a lightweight wrap
- the wrap is not too tight (or it could stop baby from moving easily)
- the wrap is not too loose (or it could cover baby’s face)
- baby is only swaddled when sleeping in their own bed.
Once baby tries to roll over then stop swaddling, or swaddle with arms free.
Baby needs a sober caregiver
To keep baby safe, they need a caregiver who is alert to their needs and free from drugs and alcohol.
Safe sleep routines are especially important if you and baby are away for home or at a social gathering. Baby always needs to be able to sleep safely.
If you have concerns
If you’re worried about your baby’s room, cot or mattress, talk to your Well Child nurse.