Firm, flat, waterproof mattress

The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their own sleep surface, in the same room as you, for at least the first six months. A Moses basket or cot is a safe place for a baby to sleep.

Use a firm, flat and waterproof mattress in good condition

You should use a firm and flat mattress that is protected by a waterproof cover. This will help keep the mattress clean and dry, as the cover can be wiped down.

Make sure your baby’s mattress is in good condition and that it fits the Moses basket or cot properly.

Avoid using soft or bulky bedding

Firmly tucked in sheets and blankets (not above shoulder height) or a baby sleep bag are safe for a baby to sleep in. Be sure to remove any soft toys from the cot before each sleep period.

Sleep your baby in the feet-to-foot position and avoid using soft or bulky bedding such as quilts, pillows and duvets.

Pillows can increase the risk of SIDS

Pillow use alone has been shown to increase the chance of SIDS occurring by up to 2.5 times. If you were thinking of using a pillow with your baby due to concerns for plagiocephaly (or ‘flat head syndrome’). There are techniques you can use that could help plagiocephaly which will not increase the risk of SIDS.

We understand that plagiocephaly usually corrects itself within a year, but if you feel it is severe you may want to speak to your health professional or seek corrective treatment.

Find out more about our advice for a clear cot here.

We advise that babies have plenty of supervised tummy time in their waking hours to minimise time spent on their back, and you should also avoid letting babies sleep in harder contained sleep environments such as car seats and other travel systems.

Our advice for using second-hand mattresses

It can be common to use a second-hand mattress either from friends and family, or from your previous children. There is some research that found an increased chance of SIDS when using a second-hand mattress  brought in from outside of the family home, although the link is not yet proven.

To help reduce this risk, if you are using a second-hand mattress make sure the mattress you choose was previously completely protected by a waterproof cover, with no rips or tears and is in good condition. The mattress should also still be firm and flat to keep your baby sleeping safely.

Remove cot bumpers

Cot bumpers can pose the risk of an accident to your baby once they begin to roll and move about the cot. There have been a number of cases in the UK and abroad where infants have become entangled in the ties and material, or fallen from pulling themselves up on the bumpers.

A simple mattress in your cot with no loose bedding or bumpers is the safest sleeping place for a baby. Find out more about our advice on cot bumpers here.

Mattresses and bedding: FAQs

Our room is very small and we can only squeeze in a travel cot, is this safe?

The same ‘safer sleep’ rules apply to a travel cot, which should have a rigid frame and base, and a firm, flat mattress, covered in a waterproof material.

Travel cot mattresses are often thinner and feel harder than those in a permanent cot, but don’t be tempted to place folded blankets or a quilt under the baby to make them ‘more comfortable’.

If you are very tight for space, you may have to consider re-arranging the furniture in the room to ensure that the travel cot isn’t against a radiator, in direct sunlight, and is out of reach of blind cords and hazards.

We have been given a cot and mattress second-hand. Is it safe to use with our new baby?

Generally we would advise it is safest to have a new mattress for each baby, though we know this is not always possible.

There is some evidence to suggest that bringing in a mattress from another home might increase the risk of sudden infant death very slightly. When using your own mattress for a second (or more) time, ensure it is still firm and flat with no tears or holes, and is not sagging in places. Thoroughly clean the waterproof layer and ensure the mattress is clean and dry before making it up with fresh bed clothes.

Can I put my twin babies in the same cot to sleep?

The Lullaby Trust has no evidence that putting twins in the same cot, in the early months, places them at greater risk of sudden infant death.

However, there are some things you can do to increase safety:

  • Never put twins together in a Moses basket or a small cot as they may overheat in the restricted space.
  • If you chose to sleep them side by side in one cot, only do this in the early weeks, when there is no danger of them rolling towards or over each other.
  • It is also an option, right from the start, to place them at opposite ends of the cot, each of them ‘feet to foot’. Each twin therefore has their own firmly tucked in bedclothes or baby sleeping bag.
  • Do not use rolled towels, foam wedges, or other objects between their heads.

By the time the twins are big enough to roll over they should be moved into their own separate cots. All the safer sleep advice applicable to single babies should be followed whether the babies are in the cot together or not.

Is it okay for my baby to sleep in a car seat?

It is fine for your baby to fall asleep when they are in their car seat, but once you get home we would advise that you move your baby to their usual firm, flat surface to sleep. Our advice is that the safest place for your baby to sleep – both during the day for naps and during the night – is in a cot or Moses basket in a room with you for the first six months.

It is important to check on your baby regularly when they are asleep.

If your baby is being transported in a car, they should be carried in a properly designed and fitted car seat, facing backwards, and preferably be in sight of an adult. Be careful that your baby doesn’t get too hot and remove hats and outdoor coats when you get in the car.

On long car journeys, stop for breaks so your baby is not in the car seat for prolonged periods (some manufacturers recommend a maximum period of 2 hours in car seats).

Premature babies who may slump need particular care when travelling in a car seat.

Ask your car seat manufacturer if they have any safety advice about the specific model you are using.

Do you recommend baby hammocks?

The safest place for a baby to sleep is on a firm, flat surface, which is their own sleeping area.