Sleep Safely This Winter – Reducing the Risk of SIDS

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

With the number of SIDS deaths rising over the winter season and new parents easily distracted by holiday festivities, The Lullaby Trust offer tips on keeping your baby safe.

Although it can be easy to think, ‘it’ll never happen to us,’ around 270 babies and toddlers die of SIDS in the UK every year – that’s five per week – and almost one third occur over the winter months. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), also known as Cot Death, is when an apparently healthy baby or toddler dies suddenly and no explanation can be discovered post-mortem. Despite the exact cause of SIDS remaining unknown, there are still ways to reduce the risk.

You can start by ensuring your baby is the right temperature. As the air begins to chill, making sure your baby is a good temperature can feel like a full-time job. While it’s easy to focus on whether they are too cold during the winter, overheating, caused by high temperatures or overwrapping, can significantly increase the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The Lullaby Trust is a brilliant charity who work to raise awareness surrounding SIDS and support families who have lost a baby this way. Since The Lullaby Trust launched the ‘Reduce the Risk’ campaign in England and Wales in 1991, the numbers of SIDS deaths has fallen by around 65% – and they’re aiming to bring it down even further!

Here is their advice on what you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS this Christmas:

Room temperature

You don’t need the central heating turned up high in your baby’s room; a safe and comfortable temperature is between 16 and 20°C. If you find it difficult to judge how warm this is, thermometers can be bought for the rooms where your baby sleeps or plays. The Lullaby Trust do one for just £3 in their online shop. It’s easier to keep track of the temperature if you sleep in the same room as your baby for the first six months, having them in their own separate cot or Moses basket.


In a room that’s a safe temperature, babies don’t need soft or thick bedding to sleep in. Bed linen such as pillows, quilts and duvets can lead to overheating or cover the baby’s face, and increase the chance of SIDS by 2.5 times. Instead, a well-fitted baby sleeping bag or firmly tucked-in sheets and blankets are safer for babies to sleep in. Just make sure to sleep your baby with their feet against the foot of their cot and that blankets go no higher than the shoulders. 

Wrapping up

Swaddling – wrapping babies in layers of materials Egyptian mummy style – is practised by some parents. The Lullaby Trust don’t advise for or against swaddling, but if you do decide to do it, there are ways to do so more safely. Make sure to use thin materials, do not swaddle too tightly or above the shoulders, and never place a swaddled baby to sleep on their front. Whether you choose to swaddle or not, babies only need to wear hats outdoors, and never to sleep in. These practices should be applied regularly for both day and night time sleep.

How hot is too hot?

Every baby is different, so while it’s important to be informed about overheating, the best way to tell if your baby is too hot is to check them regularly. Feel their tummy or the back of their neck; if they feel hot or sweaty simply remove one or more layers. It is normal for babies’ hands and feet to be slightly colder than the rest of their body, so don’t use them as a guide.

Coughs and sneezes

When babies are unwell, we can have a tendency to want to wrap them up snugly. However, babies who are sick need fewer covers, not more. It is not clear whether infection increases the chance of SIDS, but when your baby is unwell keep them safe by making sure they don’t get overheated, and seek medical advice if symptoms persist for more than 24 hours.

All year round

– Keep your baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth. Around 40 SIDS deaths a year are linked to passive smoking.

– Always place your baby on their back to sleep.

– Use a firm, flat, waterproof mattress in good condition.

– Keep your baby in their own sleep space (a cot, crib or Moses basket), free from pillows, loose bedding, cot bumpers or teddy bears.

– If you’re a dad-to-be then it’s worth chatting to your partner about breastfeeding, which has also been linked to reducing the risk of SIDS. If your partner already breastfeeds then make sure you are being supportive, as you can be an essential part of her both choosing, and continuing, to breastfeed.

A quick reminder

It’s a good idea to print out this card and stick it on the fridge or above the crib to remind you to keep to the safer sleeping advice.

Further information is available on the Lullaby Trust website or Information Line on 0808 802 6869. The Lullaby Trust Helpline will be open throughout Christmas to provide support to parents and others who have been affected by SIDS on 0808 802 6868.