What is a safe sleeping environment for my baby?
Babies should sleep in their own sleep space — either a cot or a bassinet. A safe sleeping environment is where all potential dangers are removed and the baby is sleeping in a safe place for both day and night sleeps.
The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a safe cot which meets the current Australian Standard AS/NZS2172-2010, on a safe mattress which is firm, clean, flat and the right size for the cot. It’s also important to make sure the bedding is safe and there is no bulky bedding in the cot.
A safe cot is also positioned away from any hanging cords, for example, blinds, curtains or electrical items.
What is safe sleeping?
Some sleeping arrangements are not safe and can increase the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), or sleep accidents.
Here are some tips on keeping your baby safe when they’re sleeping:
- place them on their back to sleep, not on their tummy or side
- keep the environment around your baby smoke free before and after birth
- avoid your baby overheating
- keep their head and face uncovered
- sleep your baby in their own safe sleep space in your room for the first 6 to 12 months
Guide on what to look out for when buying a cot for your baby and how to set it up.
What is co-sleeping?
Co-sleeping is when babies sleep on the same surface as another person. Some parents choose to co-sleep with their baby and bring them into bed with them. Although co-sleeping can help with breastfeeding and bonding, it’s important to remember that it isn’t always safe. If you decide to co-sleep with your baby there are ways to reduce risks and make co-sleeping safer.
What to consider if you choose to co-sleep
It’s often helpful for parents to consider why co-sleeping is right for them and their baby. Some parents prefer to have their baby co-sleep and find they sleep better themselves if their baby is close. Others say they’d prefer not to co-sleep, but their baby sleeps better when they are bed-sharing or co-sleeping.
Think about where you’d like to co-sleep with your baby and try to do this in the safest way possible. Remember, falling asleep holding a baby on a couch or chair is always unsafe. As is using pillows to prop up a baby, or to prevent them from falling out of bed.
It can be difficult for parents to co-sleep with their baby during the day because of the time this requires. It’s often helpful for babies to go to sleep in the same (safe) place for all sleeps so they get the same consistent message. If you choose to co-sleep, consider what’s right for you and your baby so they learn where their sleep space is.
Tips for safer co-sleeping
If you choose to co-sleep, here are some ways to make it safer:
- Place your baby on their back to sleep, never on their side or tummy. This will help to keep their airways open.
- Keep your baby’s head and face uncovered. Make sure all pillows and bedding are away from the baby.
- Use a safe sleeping bag with a fitted neck and armholes and no hood. Make sure your baby’s arms are out.
- Tie up any long hair and remove anything which could be a strangling risk. Jewellery, teething necklaces and dummy chains can be dangerous.
- Make sure your baby can’t fall out of bed. Place your mattress on the floor if this is possible.
- Make a clear space for your baby and place them on their back to the side of one parent. Position the baby away from the edge and never in-between two adults, or next to other children or pets.
What factors can increase co-sleeping risks?
There are a range of factors which can increase the risks of co-sleeping, some of which include the type of sleep surface the baby sleeps on and the type of bedding used. Loose bedding, or when a baby is covered by a blanket or quilt, especially pillows, soft toys and a soft, versus firm mattress, are all risk factors.
More than one person who sharing the bed and the position of the baby when they co-sleep are also important.
When is it unsafe to co-sleep?
There are some circumstances when co-sleeping is not recommended; these include:
- if you or your partner smoke
- you or your partner uses drugs or alcohol or any medication which causes you to sleep heavily and causes you to be less aware and able to respond to your baby
- if you are extremely tired or unwell
- if your baby is sick
- if your baby was born prematurely, or they are small for their gestational age
Resources and support
There are many sources of support and guidance if you choose to co-sleep with your baby. It’s important to make sure that the information you receive is backed by evidence and research.
Learn more about co-sleeping with your baby from Red Nose.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association also have more information on breastfeeding and co-sleeping.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: September 2023