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In this section:
Back to sleep
Avoid smoking
Avoid overheating
Feet to foot
If baby is ill





Reduce the Risks

While no-one understands what causes Cot Death, research has shown that by following the advice below the risk can be substantially reduced:

  • Place baby on the back to sleep
  • Avoid smoking during pregnancy - fathers too!
  • Do not let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
  • Avoid overheating baby
  • Keep baby's head uncovered - place baby's feet at the bottom of the cot
  • Do not share a bed with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, take drugs or if you are a smoker
  • Consult a doctor if baby seems unwell

Place your baby on the back to sleep

Place your baby on the back to sleep from the very beginning. This will reduce the risk of Cot Death. Side sleeping is not as safe as sleeping on the back. Healthy babies placed on their backs are not more likely to choke if they vomit.
At about five or six months old it is normal for babies to roll over and they should not be prevented from doing so. This is the age at which the risk of cot death falls rapidly, but still put your baby on the back to sleep. If you find your baby on his/her front before five or six months old, gently turn your baby over but do not feel you should be checking for this constantly through the night.
It is good for your baby to play on his/her front when awake.

Cut out smoking during pregnancy - fathers too

Smoking in pregnancy increases the risk of cot death. It is best not to smoke at all

Don't let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby.

Babies exposed to cigarette smoke after birth are also at an increased risk of cot death. It is best if nobody smokes in the house, including visitors. Anyone who wishes to smoke should go outside. Do not take your baby into smoky places.

If you are a smoker, sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of cot death.

Don't let your baby get too hot (or too cold)

Overheating can increase the risk of cot death. Babies can overheat because of too much bedding or clothing, or because the room is too hot. Remember, a folded blanket counts as two blankets.

When you check your baby, if she is sweating or her tummy feels hot to the touch, take off some bedding. Don't worry if her hands or feet feel cool, this is normal. It is easier to adjust for the temperature if you use lightweight blankets.

Babies do not need hot rooms. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you - probably about 18ºC (65ºF).

  • In summer, if it is very warm, your baby may not need any bedclothes other than a sheet
  • Even in winter, most babies who are unwell or feverish need fewer clothes
  • Babies lose excess heat from their heads, so make sure baby's head cannot be covered with bedclothes
  • Babies should never sleep with a hot water bottle or electric blanket, next to a radiator, heater or fire, or in the sunshine
  • Remove your baby's hat and extra clothing as soon as you come indoors or enter a warm car, bus or train, even if it means waking your baby


Keep baby's head uncovered - place baby's feet at the bottom of the cot

Babies whose heads are covered accidentally with bedding are at an increased risk of cot death.

Sleep your baby on a mattress that is firm, flat, well fitting and clean. The outside of the mattress should be waterproof, like PVC. Cover the mattress with a single sheet. Use sheets and lightweight blankets but not duvets, quilts, baby nests, wedges, bedding rolls or pillows.

To prevent your baby wriggling down under the covers place your baby's feet at the foot of the cot or pram. Make the covers up so that they reach no higher than the shoulders. Covers should be securely tucked in so they cannot slip over the baby's head.


The picture on the right, with the tick, shows the correct position for your baby in the crib or cot. This prevents the baby wriggling down under the covers.

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in your room for the first six months.

While it's lovely to have your baby with you for a cuddle or a feed, it's safest to put your baby back in their cot before you go to sleep, especially in the first 3 months. There is a link between sharing a bed and cot death if you or your partner:

  • are smokers (no matter where or when you smoke)
  • have recently drunk any alcohol
  • have taken medication or drugs that make you sleep more heavily
  • are very tired

There is also a risk that you might roll over in your sleep and suffocate your baby, or that your baby could get caught between the wall and the bed, or could roll out of an adult bed and be injured.

It is extremely unsafe for anyone to sleep with a baby on a sofa or armchair .

Consult a doctor if baby seems unwell

Babies often have minor illnesses which you do not need to worry about . Make sure your baby drinks plenty of fluids and is not too hot. If your baby sleeps a lot, wake him regularly for a drink. It may be difficult to judge whether an illness is more serious requiring prompt medical attention. The following guidelines may help you:

Serious Illness

There may be serious illness is your baby has any of the following symptoms:

  • has a high-pitched or weak cry, is less responsive, is much less active or more floppy than usual
  • looks very pale all over, grants with each breath, seems to be working harder to breathe when you look at their chest and tummy
  • takes less than a third of usual fluids, passes much less urine than usual, vomits green fluid, or passes blood in their stools
  • has a high fever or is sweating a lot

Urgent medical attention is needed if your baby:

  • stops breathing or goes blue
  • is unresponsive and shows no awareness of what is going on
  • has glazed eyes and does not focus on anything
  • cannot be woken
  • has a fit. Even if your baby recovers without medical attention, still contact your doctor    

                   Dial 999 and ask for an ambulance

The Scottish Cot Death Trust, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Yorkhill,
Tel No: Fax No: