Safe sleeping

The safest place for your baby to sleep during the first six months is on her back, in a cot, in your room, with her feet at the foot of the cot. Risks associated with bed sharing are the baby overheating, suffocating or suffering injury.  These risks are increased if you or your partner smoke, have recently drunk alcohol, have taken medication or drugs that could make you sleepy, or are very tired. 

Think carefully about your baby's safety before every sleep.

Some tips for a good night's sleep

It’s not realistic to expect your baby to sleepseveral times a day and wake only for feeds andto smile and coo. Some babies may behave likethis but most don’t. By responding to your baby'scries, you are teaching her that the world is asafe place. This will help her to develop the skillsto sleep through the night in the long term. Aslong as you understand this, you can prepare forit – and look forward to the time when she sleepsthrough the night!

Back to sleep

To keep your baby safe when she is sleeping, always put her to sleep on her back. This decreases the risk of sudden unexplained death in infancy.

Feet to foot

When you put your baby down in her Moses basket, cradle or cot to sleep, always position her at the bottom – that is, with her feet at the foot of her cot – not with her head at the top. That way, she can’t wriggle down and get caught under her blankets.

Blankets and covers

For newborn babies, cellular blankets (the ones the hospital uses) are the best. They help keep your baby’s temperature regular – neither too hot nor too cold – and they’re light. Baby duvets, fleece blankets and cot bumpers are not recommended for newborn babies.

Room temperature

The ideal temperature for a baby’s room is between 16°C and 20°C. At this temperature, your baby will only need one or two layers of cellular blanket to keep her snug all night long. Make sure that her room is free from draughts.

Lighting and music

You might find that a night light is comforting in a baby’s room – it also means that you won’t trip over in the dark when you go in to check on her. For some babies, a gentle lullaby as she’s going off to sleep is soothing and helps to create an association with a sleep routine. You can either sing yourself or you might prefer a musical box or toy instead.


You may have heard about babies developing a persistent flat spot, either at the back of, or on one side of the head. This is known as plagiocephaly – it is cosmetic and will not affect your baby’s brain. It sometimes happens when babies lie in the same position for long periods. To help avoid this, make sure your baby has supervised ‘playtime’ on her tummy but never let her fall asleep like this. If you are worried and want more information ask your midwife or health visitor.

You should receive a copy of the NHS Scotland leaflet, Protect Your Baby’s Natural Headshape: Tummy Time to Play, Back to Sleep, either before or shortly after the birth of your baby.

Risks associated with bed sharing are increased if you or your partner smoke, have recently drunk alcohol, have taken medication or drugs that could make you sleepy, or are very tired.

Reducing the risk of cot death

Cot death, also known as sudden unexplained death in infancy, claims less than 40 infants a year in Scotland. It’s rare, and we don’t yet know what causes it.

We do know, however, that there are ways of reducing the risks:

  • always place your baby on her back to sleep
  • keep your baby away from cigarette smoke – and remember that it can linger on clothes too
  • don’t let anyone smoke in a room where your baby is going to sleep
  • don’t fall asleep with a small baby in bed or on a sofa or armchair
  • place your baby with her feet at the foot of her cot so she can’t wriggle underneath her blankets
  • make sure your baby doesn’t get too hot or cold. Check her temperature by feeling her stomach or the back of her neck – don’t go by her hands and feet as they will often feel cold.
Last Updated: 11 December 2017
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