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Safe sleep for babies

Good sleep habits are important to your baby’s physical health and emotional well-being. An important part of safe sleep is the place where your baby sleeps, his sleeping position, the kind of crib or bed, type of mattress, and so on.

Creating a safe sleep environment for your baby will lower the risk of injury and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is when an otherwise healthy baby dies suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping. With SIDS, there is no known cause, even after a full investigation, including a full autopsy.  

SIDS is less common in babies whose parents do not smoke—especially babies whose mothers *don’t smoke* during pregnancy. It’s less common in babies who sleep on their back.

Where should my baby sleep?  

For the first 6 months, the safest place for your baby to sleep is on his back, in a crib in your room. Having your baby close to you will make night-time breastfeeding easier, and may help protect against SIDS.

How can I create a safe sleep environment for my baby?

  • Starting from birth, and for the first year of life, place your baby to sleep on her back at night time and for naps. Do not use sleep positioners or rolled up blankets to keep your baby on her back: These items can cause your baby to suffocate. When she can turn over on her own, you don’t need to return her to the back position.
  • Use a firm, flat surface for sleep. Waterbeds, air mattresses, pillows, couches/sofas or soft materials are not safe sleep surfaces for babies. Babies can turn onto their side or stomach and bury their face in these soft materials, not getting enough air to breathe. Car seats and infant carriers should not replace the crib for your baby’s sleep. 
  • Keep soft materials out of your baby’s sleep environment. Items that should not be in the crib include quilts, comforters, bumper pads, stuffed animals, pillows and other pillow-like items.  
  • Make sure your baby is not too warm. Instead of a blanket, use light sleeping clothing for your baby such as a one-piece sleeper, if the room is cool.  
  • Keep your baby away from cigarette smoke. Babies whose mothers smoked while pregnant, and babies who are exposed to smoke after birth are at increased risk of SIDS. Choose a non-smoking caregiver for your baby. 
  • Be sure your baby’s crib meets Health Canada’s most current safety standards. If your room is too small for a crib, use a cradle or a bassinet that also meets current Canadian safety regulations. Or contact the nearest Consumer Product Safety Office, listed in the blue pages of your phone book. 
  • A playpen is not a safe alternative to a crib for unsupervised sleep. Babies have died as a result of a playpen collapsing or from getting trapped between a playpen and an accessory when left alone. 

Is bedsharing safe?  

Some parents decide to bedshare, which means sleeping on the same surface with their baby.  
Adult beds are not designed with infant safety in mind. That’s why they are not the safest place for babies to sleep. Adult beds increase the risk of SIDS or suffocation:  

  • A baby can become trapped in a space between the mattress and the wall, or between the mattress and the bed frame.
  • A baby can fall off a bed.  
  • An adult or an older child can roll over and suffocate a baby.  
  • Soft bedding, such as comforters or duvets, can cover a baby’s head and cause overheating. Babies who get their head covered during sleep are at increased risk of SIDS.  
  • Co-sleeper products (infant bed that attaches to an adult bed) are not recommended by Health Canada.

Never lie down or sleep with your baby on a couch, sofa or armchair. Do not let your baby sleep alone, or with another person, on a couch, sofa or armchair. A baby can become trapped down the sides or in the cushions and suffocate.

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib close to your bed.  

What about breastfeeding and safe sleep?  

Breastmilk is the ideal food for babies. The CPS recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Though your baby will be ready for other foods at about 6 months, you can continue to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond. The longer you breastfeed, the more benefits you and your baby will get.  

When you’re breastfeeding, having your baby near you makes night-time feedings easier. When you bring your baby into bed with you to breastfeed, it’s easy for both of you to fall asleep, especially when you are lying down.  

Here are some important points to consider before taking your baby into bed with you:  

  • Smoking during pregnancy or after the baby is born increases the risk of SIDS, especially if you share a bed with your baby and even if you never smoke in bed.
  • If you fall asleep with your baby, you may not be able to wake up easily and respond to him. This is more likely to happen if:   
    • You have had alcohol to drink.  
    • You have taken any drugs (legal or illegal) that could make you very sleepy.  
    • You are extremely tired (more than usual).  

Remember that the safest way for your baby to sleep is always on his back, in the crib, next to your bed.

The Safe Sleep for Your Baby video by the Public Health Agency of Canada provides steps to create a safe sleep environment for your baby and lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
Community Paediatrics Committee

Last Updated: June 2010