When using an image of a sleeping baby, we believe it is vitally important to show safer sleep practices.

Thousands of pregnant women and new parents are exposed to images of sleeping babies through advertising, the media and the nursery industry.  More often than not, these images are being used by commercial companies to sell products to parents or secure publicity and media attention.

While we generally have no objection to babies being used in advertising and public relations activity, there is a danger that exposure to ‘risky’ images may normalise sleeping positions which could increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). We are particularly concerned about the impact of unsafe images on more vulnerable and unsupported parents, where incidence of SIDS is much higher.

We have been funding cutting-edge research since 1971 and our knowledge about when and where a baby is at risk of SIDS has come a long way, especially in the last 20 years with the discovery that babies are six times more at risk of SIDS if placed on their front to sleep.

We consistently say that the safest place for a baby to sleep is on their back in a cot or a Moses basket in the same room as a parent or carer for the first six months of life. Images that reinforce this message are needed to encourage parents to practice safer sleep and this saves more babies lives.

Good practice…

Applying our guidance to images of sleeping babies could not only reduce the risk of SIDS but ensure consistency of message across all media and support our wider campaign to reduce preventable infant mortality in the UK.

In 2011 The Lullaby Trust (then FSID) conducted an eight-month study into the use of sleeping baby images used in consumer magazines and online. Worryingly our results, published in health visitors’ journal Community Practitioner, found a third of media images contravene safety advice — this included some of the UK’s most popular parenting sites and titles.

An unsafe image of a ‘cute’ baby, no matter how appealing or humorous, does not help our cause of halving SIDS by 2020. We appreciate that use of these images is not an attempt to actively promote risky practice however we are calling on the nursery and baby industry to think ‘safe sleep’ before using a picture of a baby in promotional images.  

The Lullaby Trust aims to ensure every parent and carer can access our evidence-based advice so that they can make an informed decision when putting their baby to sleep. We therefore ask you to remain mindful when using images of sleeping babies; use the dos and don’ts of safer sleep images below as a guideline.

DO use images of babies sleeping DON’T use images of babies sleeping:
  • On their back
  • In the feet to foot position
  • In their own cot, in the same room as an adult
  • Covered in tucked-in, lightweight layers or a well-fitting baby sleep bag
    • On their front
    • On their side
    • Wearing anything on their head
    • Sharing a bed or sofa with an adult
    • With loose or excess bedding
    • With a pillow in the cot
    • In a cot with bumpers
    • In a car seat or buggy
    • In a sling or hammock
    • On a soft, plush surface
    • Together with a sibling or pet
    • In a smoky environment or near a smoker

We encourage parents and carers to give their baby ‘tummy time’ when they are awake throughout the day; this helps to strengthen a baby’s upper body muscles and helps them learn how to roll from front to back and then back again. It is perfectly acceptable to use images of awake babies laying on their front, however we would recommended the baby is on a firm flat surface on the floor and is supervised an adult.

The Lullaby Trust would be happy to advise you about the safe use of baby sleep images. Please contact the Communications team on 020 7802 3202 or email communications@lullabytrust.org.uk.