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Is it okay to take my baby on an aeroplane?

There is no evidence that flying is unsafe for babies, if they are healthy. If you fly with your baby on either long or short flights, you should follow these guidelines: place your baby on the back to sleep, keep your baby cool, sit away from the smoking area on the plane and in the airport terminal, and make sure your baby takes appropriate feeds and doesn't become dehydrated.

If you have specific questions about your baby, e.g. if your baby is unwell or has a cold, speak to your doctor before travelling.

Can I use a duvet, quilt or pillow for my baby?

If your baby is under one year, do not use any soft bedding, such as duvets, quilts or pillows, as they are associated with an increased risk of cot death. Instead, use one or more layers of light blankets.

Don't swaddle, use electric blankets or hot water bottles. If you use a Moses basket, it should only have a thin lining.  

What kind of mattress should I use?

It doesn't matter what kind of mattress you use, or whether it's new, as long as it is firm, not soft, doesn't sag and shows no sign of deterioration. Keep it well aired and clean. Mattresses with a PVC surface or a removable washable cover are easiest to keep clean. Ventilated mattresses (with holes) are not necessary. Place your baby with their feet to the foot of the cot. Never sleep your baby on a pillow, cushion, bean bag or water bed or sleep together with your baby on a sofa.

Should I breastfeed my baby?

Yes, if possible. While breastfeeding may not protect against cot death, it is the natural and best way to feed your baby and increases resistance to infections.

Can my baby share my bed?

It's lovely to have your baby in your bed with you for a cuddle or a feed, but put her back in the cot before you go to sleep if you or your partner smoke, have recently drunk alcohol, take drugs or are extremely tired. Keep your baby's cot in your room for the first six months as this is associated with a reduced risk of cot death. If you plan to sleep with your baby, don't let her head get covered by the duvet or pillow, do use lightweight blankets not adult bed covers, and do place your baby in a position where she cannot fall out of bed.

Should my baby be immunised?

Yes. Recent research shows that immunisation significantly reduces the risk of cot death.

Do movement (breathing) monitors prevent cot death?

Movement monitors, also known as apnoea or breathing monitors, are supposed to sound an alarm after 20 seconds if they can't detect a baby's breathing movement. They may use sensor pads attached to the tummy or housed in an elastic belt which fits over the baby's clothing. Others use a pressure pad under the baby or an ultrasound beam. They do not monitor air flow and therefore can not detect an obstruction in the airway until breathing movements cease. Despite their widespread use there is no research evidence that monitors prevent cot death. Babies can and do die whilst on a monitor.

Do dummies reduce the risk of cot death?

The evidence in this area is complicated. Research suggests that babies who always use a dummy and babies who never use a dummy may be at lower risk of cot death than babies who usually use a dummy but failed to do so during their last sleep. In other words, once your baby is using a dummy regularly, this use should continue. On the current evidence, researchers do not recommend dummies to reduce the risk of cot death.

Can my baby use a sleeping bag/sac?

If you wish to use a sleeping bag for your baby make sure it's designed for regular use at night. It should be sleeveless without a hood, and well fitted around the arms and neck, to prevent your baby from sliding down into the bag. To make sure your baby doesn't become too hot only use a sleeping bag with a low tog rating, but check if your baby is too hot by feeling if their tummy is hot to the touch, or if they are sweating. In a sleeping bag your baby may not need any other bedding, or may need only light bedding, such as a thin blanket or sheet.

Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of cot death?

Yes. There are six key steps parents and carers should take:

  • Place your baby on the back to sleep
  • Cut smoking in pregnancy - fathers too!
  • Do not let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
  • Do not let your baby get too hot (or too cold)
  • Keep baby's head uncovered - place your baby with their feet to the foot of the cot, to prevent wriggling down under the covers
  • If your baby is unwell, seek medical advice promptly

How can you reduce the risk of cot death?

There are six key steps to take:

  • Place your baby on the back to sleep
  • Cut smoking in pregnancy - fathers too!
  • Do not let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
  • Do not let your baby get too hot 
  • Keep baby's head uncovered - place your baby with their feet to the foot of the cot, to prevent wriggling down under the covers
  • If your baby is unwell, seek medical advice promptly

For further information on baby health and reducing the risk of cot death contact FSID for copies of the BabyZone and Reduce the Risk booklets, or telephone FSID's 24 hour helpline on: 020 7233 2090.

You could also visit FSID's website which contains over 100 pages of information related to cot death, baby health and the work of FSID: www.sids.org.uk/fsid


We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.