Every year, Red Nose Day (Friday 9 August) aims to raise awareness of safe sleeping habits for babies, to prevent Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy/SUDI (previously known as SIDS).

Newborns are particularly vulnerable, and parents play a crucial role in the supervision of their child’s sleep safety both during the day and night. Here are a few simple and effective safe sleeping steps to minimise the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy and sleeping accidents.

1) Place baby on their back for every sleep

The safest sleeping position for babies, from newborn to twelve months, is to place them on their back. This avoids any fatal choking accidents that can occur if they accidentally sleep on their sides or stomach. When babies are old enough to roll over (4-6 months), you should continue to put them to sleep on their back. Do your best to gently turn them back but let your baby naturally find their sleeping position.

2) Ensure baby’s head and face are fully uncovered

At all times, babies’ heads and faces should be completely exposed when they are sleeping. Ensure all bed sheets are tucked tightly and remove any pillows, huge blankets and soft toys from the cot. To keep your baby warm in winter, use a safe infant sleeping bag with a fitted neck, armholes and no hood.

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3) Dress baby appropriately to room temperature

 Dress babies similarly to how you would dress yourself – comfortably warm and not overly hot. To check a baby’s temperature, touch their back or tummy and it should feel warm. Don’t be alarmed if your baby’s hands and feet are cool (this is normal!).

4) Create a smoke-free baby zone 

The risk of SUDI increases exponentially when babies are exposed to smoking during pregnancy and after birth. Protect your baby by creating a smoke-free zone at your home, nursery, in your car or at any location that you spend most of your time. If you are looking to quit smoking and need some assistance, speak to your local GP or call the Quitline on 137 848.

5) Have a separate baby sleeping space in the bedroom

Whilst bed-sharing is welcomed in some cultures, babies require a different sleeping environment to adults. Set up a cot in your bedroom so your baby has their own space but is still within close range to you.

6) Check your baby’s cot meets Australian safety standards

Whether you’re using a new, second-hand, portable or stationary cot, it is imperative that they meet current Australian Standards. This should be evident by a clear label (AS/NZS 2172).  Even if it looks ‘safe’, never use an unregulated cot as they can pose multiple hidden dangers to your baby, such as contact with lead paint or injuries from being caught in gaps. If you are unsure, you can always refer to Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s Product Safety Laws for household cots for more specifications.

7) Check mattress is firm, level and fits cot

Unlike cots, cushions or any makeshift bedding are never a safe sleeping surface for babies. Ensure that there are no gaps between the mattress and cot to avoid any chance of babies jamming their heads. The mattress should also be flat and firm to prevent any chance of babies rolling over, and this means padding and layering mattresses should also be avoided. To test the firmness of your baby’s mattress, you can read more in Standard AS/NZS 8811.1:2013.

8) Breastfeed baby if possible

Scientific research has shown that breastfeeding provides multiple benefits for babies, including reducing the risk of SUDI. Regardless of which method you use, safe sleeping practices are ultimately crucial in protecting your baby.

If you have any questions about SUDI or safe sleeping practices for babies, it is best that you speak to your midwife or family doctor. The Mater Hospital, one of Sydney’s leading maternity hospitals, has a supportive and reliable team of midwives and professionals that are happy to listen to and attend to your needs.

Alternatively, you can visit Red Nose’s website or call their 24-hour support line 1300 308 307.  Red Nose is a charity dedicated to researching more about protecting lives of infants, and supporting families impacted by the loss of a child.

About Sarah Neale

Sarah Neale is a Clinical Nurse Coordinator at The Mater Hospital, one of Sydney’s leading maternity hospitals.

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  • Another very important topic we all need to educate ourselves on.


  • I did all the wrong things when my boys were little because I knew nothing about this disease. They slept on their side at the top of their cot sometimes with a propped up bottle, they had a pillow and they were loosely covered with a blanket and their favourite teddy bear. Hopefully SIDS will soon be a thing of the past.


  • Great tips and I hope that soon SIDS will be a thing of the past. Thanks for sharing.


  • I read a little while ago that there has been a genetic link found to SIDS. It would be good if babies could be tested for this to see if they are more at risk.


  • All great and informative tips that I followed with my bub … except the breastfeeding. It wasn’t possible!


  • thanks for sharing, important to know


  • Such a great read. thanks for sharing this article.


  • Great tips here. Before we had our son, we went to a free SIDS workshop, and they went through everything with us, and gave us packs to give to grandparents etc, as alot of things have changed since they had kids! I think the course should be done by everyone

    • Those courses are a great initiative indeed !


  • Such great work being done in this area, hopefully with more funding they can reduce the deaths to zero.


  • Great points to consider, thanks for sharing.


  • Some great tips here. Thank you for sharing.


  • Good safety tips


  • Looking forward to this again with baby number two, I’ll be much more confident


  • Great reminders


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