For the first 6 months of your baby’s life the safest place for them to sleep is in a cot in the same room as the person looking after them, for all sleeps.
Sadly, every year a small number of babies die suddenly and unexpectedly in their sleep. Sometimes a cause is found, such as an underlying health condition, but often there’s no obvious reason.
You may hear the term sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) which used to be called cot death.
SIDS happens most often during sleep at any time, day or night. Doctors don’t yet know what causes it but it’s most likely to happen in the first 6 months. Babies born early and underweight, and twins or multiple babies are more at risk.
SIDS is at increased risk of happening if you:
SIDS is at increased risk of happening if your baby:
Breastfeeding your baby reduces the risks of SIDS
For the first 6 months the safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot, crib or moses basket in your room beside your bed and in the same room as you, for all sleeps. You’ll also be close by if they need a feed or cuddle.
You can help your baby get a good sleep and stay as safe as possible by:
If your baby uses a dummy, use it for every sleep. If you’re breastfeeding, wait at least 4 weeks before giving your baby a dummy.
Make sure that any other family or friends who may look after your baby know how to put your baby down for a sleep safely.
Never put yourself in a position that you can fall asleep with your baby in an armchair or on the sofa as this increases the risk of SIDS by 50% (Source: Baby Sleep Info Source and the Lullaby Trust).
Adult beds aren’t designed for babies. Before you bed-share, consider whether you think it’s a safe place for your baby to sleep. Check that:
Mothers do sometimes bed-share when breastfeeding, however, without some planning and thought it can be very dangerous.
If you are breastfeeding while lying down, make sure your baby cannot roll onto their front. Try and keep your baby on their back, or move them onto their back once they have been fed.
If you’re thinking about bed-sharing, talk to your midwife, health visitor or family nurse about how to reduce the risks for your baby.
Baby Sleep Info Source has more information about bed-sharing
It’s never safe to share a bed with your baby if:
Your baby should sleep separately in their cot in these situations.
There’s no normal amount of sleep and some babies sleep more than others. New babies sleep a lot – sometimes as much as 18 hours a day for the first month or so. But your baby probably won’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time to begin with.
If your baby seems unusually sleepy they might be unwell. Always trust your instincts and get medical advice if you’re worried.
Don’t expect your baby to sleep several times a day and wake only for feeds and to smile, there will be some crying and grumbling.
When your baby cries and you go to them and comfort them, you’re teaching them the world’s a safe place. This helps them to develop the skills to sleep through the night.
Sometimes babies develop a flatter area either at the back of or on one side of their head. This is called plagiocephaly.
Plagiocephaly usually gets better on its own if your baby’s spending less time lying down.
More about plagiocephaly
Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.
If you need a different language or format, please contact email@example.com.
19 December 2023