Safe sleeping

As the temperature gets colder over the next few months, it can be helpful for parents and carers to think about safe sleeping in winter to protect their children and keep them warm. Due to the cost-of-living crisis, many families are making the difficult choice of when to heat their homes to keep bills low, which can be hard to do when there are small children in the home.

The Lullaby Trust provides practical and safe advice for parents and is a website midwives signpost their patients to.

The Lullaby Trust ‘safer sleep in winter’ guide gives information on how to keep children safe when the weather gets cold and provides advice and information around bedding options, co-sleeping, how to check babies’ temperatures, and also signposts to further support if needed.
If families are unable to heat the whole house, they should try heating the main rooms where small children and babies will be in, with a temperature of around 16-20 degrees Celsius.

Always follow the advice on baby sleeping bags with regards to the weight or age the baby should be to use one. 

The safest place for a baby to sleep is in their own clear, flat, separate sleep space, such as a cot or Moses’ basket in the same room as their parents or carers. 

Further advice for parents and families with young children at home including: 

  • Do not put hats on babies or small children inside the home.
  • Do not put the cot directly in front of the radiator or fire.
  • Skin to skin contact is strongly encouraged to be implemented at home and is not just for in the hospital.
  • In the early days of a baby’s life, hands and feet can feel cold to touch, but the baby could be the correct temperature. Get used to checking the baby’s chest and back of their neck and compare this to your own chest and neck temperature.
  • Blankets should be no higher than the collarbone of the baby, and should be tucked in around the baby to ensure warm air is trapped in.

Keeping the room temperature between 16-20 degrees Celsius will reduce damp and mould in the home, which could be problematic for children with respiratory problems, such as Asthma.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby where no cause is found. This is also known as “cot death”. While SIDS is rare, it can still happen and there are steps parents can take to help reduce the chance of this tragedy occurring.

  • Place your baby on their back to sleep, in a cot in the same room as you, for the first 6 months.
  • Don't smoke during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and don't let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby.
  • Don't share a bed with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you take drugs, or you're a smoker.
  • Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.
  • Don't let your baby get too hot or cold. The optimum room temperature of about 18C (65F) is ideal.
  • If it's very warm, your baby may not need any bedclothes other than a sheet. Even in winter, most babies who are unwell or feverish don't need extra clothes.
  • Keep your baby's head uncovered. Their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders.
  • Place your baby in the "feet to foot" position, with their feet at the end of the cot or Moses basket.
  • If your baby is unwell seek medical help promptly
  • Babies often have minor illnesses that 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. It can be difficult to judge whether an illness is more serious and needs urgent medical attention.

The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first 6 months is in a cot in the same room as you.

It's especially important not to share a bed with your baby if you or your partner:

  • are smokers (no matter where or when you smoke and even if you never smoke in bed)
  • have recently drunk alcohol
  • have taken medication or drugs that make you sleep more heavily

The risks of bed sharing are also increased if your baby was:

  • premature (born before 37 weeks) or,
  • had a low birth weight ((less than 2.5kg or 5.5lb)

As well as a higher risk of SIDS, there's also a risk you might roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby. Your baby could get caught between the wall and the bed, or roll out of an adult bed and be injured.

Never sleep with a baby on a sofa or armchair. It's lovely to have your baby with you for a cuddle or a feed, but sleeping with your baby on a sofa or armchair is linked to a higher risk of SIDS. It's safest to put your baby back in their cot/Moses basket before you go to sleep.