Those in crisis may not have the facilities to follow all of this advice, but we hope that this information provides helpful guidelines on safer sleep for baby away from home or in emergency situations. 

Routine is important in reducing the risk of SIDS. It can be difficult to follow the same routine when your living arrangements keep changing. However, it is really important to keep the same sleeping routine for your baby and always put them to sleep on their back for every day and night time sleep. Babies who normally sleep on their back but sometimes sleep on their front or side are at a greater risk of SIDS.  

Always sleep your baby..  

..on their back... a clear cot or sleep space.

If you have a cot or Moses basket 

If you are able to use a cot or Moses basket, this is ideal. Babies need just a few basic items for sleep: a firm, flat, waterproof mattress and well-fitted bedding. We recommend babies are slept in cots or Moses baskets that are kept clear. We advise:  

  • No pillows or duvets  
  • No cot bumpers  
  • No soft toys  
  • No loose bedding  
  • No pods or nests  
  • No sleep positioning products (such as wedges or straps) that will keep your baby in one position 

If you do not have a cot or Moses basket 

If you do not have a cot or Moses basket then you should try and find another type of firm, flat, safe sleep surface for your baby. If you choose to bring your baby into bed with you, follow our guidelines on safer bedsharing 

It’s really important to know when it’s NOT safe to bedshare :

  • Either you or your partner smokes (even if you do not smoke in the bedroom) 
  • Either you or your partner has drunk any alcohol or taken drugs (including medications that may make you drowsy)  
  • Your baby was born premature (before 37 weeks)  
  • Your baby was born at a low weight (2.5kg or 5½ lbs or less)  
  • Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby as this can increase the risk of SIDS by up to 50 times 
  • To reduce the risk of accidents, do not bring other children into bed with you if you choose to bedshare with your baby

Safer sleep for babies away from home or in emergency situations FAQs

Can I use a travel cot for my baby? 

Travel cot mattresses are a lot thinner than a standard cot mattress, however they are fine for a baby to sleep on. Our only advice is don’t place folded blankets, towels or a quilt under the baby to make them ‘more comfortable’. Avoid loose bedding – babies are at higher risk of SIDS if they have their heads covered with loose bedding. Place your baby on their back in the ‘feet to foot’ position (placing baby’s feet to the bottom end of the travel cot to avoid them wriggling down under the covers). Use a thin blanket no higher than their shoulders, and firmly tucked in under the mattress. 

What if I don’t have travel cot, cot or a Moses basket? 

If you don’t have a travel cot, a cot or a Moses basket, we would advise using a safe, firm, flat space for your baby. 

If you have a pram/carrycot or a buggy, you could use this, but ensure the base of the buggy or pram/carrycot is flat and not sloping or tilted. Keep the hood down when indoors and don’t cover the buggy or pram/carrycot. For example, don’t put material or a blanket over the top of the pram to keep out light. The padded sides of a buggy/pram/carrycot may trap more heat, so keep checking your baby’s temperature. Feel the back of their neck or chest – if their skin feels sweaty they are too hot, so remove a layer of bedding or clothing.

We would not advise using products like swings and baby bouncers as sleep spaces as they are not firm and flat.

Can I use a baby box for my baby to sleep in?  

We acknowledge that for some families, especially those who may be fleeing domestic abuse or who find themselves in a crisis/emergency situation, a baby box may be a better alternative to co-sleeping with a baby in a hazardous circumstance, such as on a sofa or armchair or if there are any risk factors, such as smoking, alcohol, prematurity, low birthweight or multiple children sharing the bed.    

There is now a British Standards Institution standard for a baby boxes, however we would still recommend babies sleep in a cot or Moses basket when possible. Baby boxes may be a good stop gap for some families in certain circumstances, but they are not as robust as a cot and babies grow out of the box quite quickly.  

A baby box can be used as an alternative sleep space as long as you follow safer sleep guidelines: 

  • Do not lift or carry the box if your baby is in it  
  • Do not put the lid on the box if your baby is in it  
  • Always keep the box clear as a sleeping space  
  • Do not place additional bedding on top of or underneath the mattress to raise your baby up to a higher level  
  • Ensure the box is placed on a solid surface and cannot fall over, preferably on the floor if it is clean and dry  
  • Do not use the box if it gets wet or soiled  
  • Ensure that any pets stay away from the box 

Can I use a car seat to sleep my baby in? 

It is important not to let your baby stay in a car seat for a long time. This is even more important for premature or young babies. Car seats are designed to keep babies safe while travelling, not as a main sleeping place. The baby should be taken out as soon as you get to your destination, and placed onto a firm, flat surface to sleep. 

What about room temperature? 

It is important to make sure that your baby is at a comfortable temperature – not too hot or too cold with an ideal room temperature of between 16-20 degrees. Babies don’t need hats indoors. It’s important to keep your baby’s head uncovered while they are sleeping, so they can lose heat from their head when necessary. Babies who are unwell need fewer, not more layers. Feel your baby’s chest or the back of their neck (your baby’s hands and feet will usually be cooler, which is normal). If your baby’s skin is hot or sweaty, remove one or more layers of clothing or bedding. If the room temperature is very warm, it is fine for baby to sleep wearing just a nappy. If the room is very cold, avoid over-wrapping as overheating is associated with an increased risk of SIDS.   

Download our ‘Safer Sleep Advice for Emergency Situations’ guide.

Find out more about how to keep your baby safe when the weather gets cold.