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Reduce the risk of crib death

Posted by Be Well

Crib death is the sudden unexpected death of an apparently well baby aged from birth to two years. You might hear it called sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Although crib death is the most common cause of death in young babies, it is still very rare and the risk of your baby dying from crib death is very small.

What causes crib death?

The exact cause of crib death is unknown. However, there are precautions you can take to reduce the risks.

Back to sleep

Babies whose heads are covered by bedding are at an increased risk of crib death.

Putting your baby on their back to sleep will reduce the risk of crib death.

Healthy babies placed on their back to sleep are not more likely to choke while they are asleep.

It is normal for babies to roll over when they get to about 5 or 6 months old. At this age, the risk of crib death falls significantly.

If your baby is under five months, and you find them asleep on their side or front, gently turn them over. But don't feel that you need to check on them all the time when they are asleep.

Baby's bed

Your baby should sleep in a cot in the same room as you for the first six months.

Make sure their mattress is:

  • clean,
  • firm,
  • flat,
  • well-fitted,
  • waterproof, and
  • covered with a single sheet.

The risk of crib death falls when a baby reaches 5-6 months old

Use sheets and lightweight blankets, but not duvets, quilts, pillows or similar thick bedding.

Babies whose heads are covered by bedding are at an increased risk of crib death. So to prevent your baby wriggling down under the covers, always place your baby so their feet touch the foot (bottom) of the cot or pram. Then make sure their covers are tucked in so they can't slip over their head.

You should avoid sharing a bed with your baby - always make sure you put your baby in their cot before you go to sleep, especially for the first three months after birth.


Smoking in pregnancy increases the risk of crib death. That includes passive smoking from partners too. So it's best not to smoke at all.

Babies exposed to tobacco smoke after the birth are also at an increased risk of crib death. It's best not to let anyone smoke in your home.

If you smoke, sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of crib death.


Crib death is also known as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Try not to let your baby get too hot - this can increase the risk of crib death.

Babies can get too hot if they have too much bedding, or the room is too warm. If your baby is sweating or their tummy feels hot to touch, take off some of the bedding. Don't worry if your baby's hands and feet are cool as this is normal.

Remember that babies do not need hot rooms - keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you to sleep in. This is usually about 18C (65F).

Your baby should never sleep:

  • with a hot water bottle or electric blanket,
  • next to a radiator, heater or fire, or
  • in direct sunlight.

Using a pacifier

Recent findings have also found that a child using a pacifier when asleep has a reduced risk of crib death.

If you are breastfeeding, do not give your baby a pacifier until your baby is one month old. This will help make sure that the pacifier does not affect your baby's breastfeeding routine.

Do not worry if your baby's pacifier falls out while they are sleeping, or if your baby does not want to use a pacifier. Not all babies take to pacifiers, and you should never force your child to use one if they do not want to.

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