Written by Olivia Arrow

Bringing home your baby is an exciting yet very scary time for new parents. There’s a lot to learn in those first few months about being a parent and it can be a little overwhelming. Thinking about your baby’s safe sleep environment can be accidently overlooked with all the changes you experience as a new parent, and could end up being the last thing on your mind once baby has arrived. However, it happens to be the most crucial part to keeping your baby safe and with Red Nose’s help, we have a few handy tips to help you.

So, What Is Considered A Safe Sleeping Environment?

A safe sleeping environment is a space where all potential dangers to your baby have been removed and the baby has a safe place for both day and night sleeps.  

Providing your baby with a safe sleeping environment helps to reduce the risk of SUDI and SIDS. Red Nose understands it can be confusing for parents to know what a safe or unsafe sleep environment is and have pulled together evidence-based safe sleeping practices ensuring you have all the information you need to make informed decisions.

Sleep Baby on The Back from Birth, Not on The Tummy or Side

Sleeping baby on the back reduces the risk of SUDI. The chance of babies dying suddenly and unexpectedly is greater if they sleep on their tummies or sides. Put your baby on the back to sleep, from birth, on a firm, flat surface. If your midwife, nurse or doctor advises you to use another sleep position for your baby, e.g. baby has a particular medical condition, make sure the reason is fully explained to you and ask for a written explanation. These situations are very rare.

Healthy babies placed to sleep on the back are less likely to choke on vomit than tummy sleeping infants.

Sleep Your Baby with His Face and Head Uncovered

Sleeping baby in a safe baby sleeping bag, one designed especially for baby with fitted neck and armholes and no hood, has a number of features that help baby sleep safely. Research has shown that sleeping bag use will reduce the risk of bedclothes covering the baby’s face, will delay baby rolling onto the tummy during sleep until baby is past the age of peak risk of SUDI, promotes supine sleep as the zipper opens to the front and will keep baby’s temperature at a more constant level while sleeping at home.

If a blanket is being used, ensure your baby is placed with their feet at the end of the cot, with the blanket brought up no higher than the level of the chest and tucked securely underneath the mattress. This reduces the risk of the blanket covering the baby’s face.

Ensure there is no soft bedding in baby’s sleep environment. Soft bedding (pillows, doonas, loose bedding or fabric, lambswool, bumpers or soft toys) in the cot is unnecessary and may cover baby’s face and obstruct baby’s breathing.

Keep Baby Smoke Free Before And After Birth

Smoking when pregnant increases your baby’s risk of death during pregnancy and up to one year of age.  It’s best to avoid exposing your baby to tobacco smoke, and to not let anyone smoke near your baby – not in the house, the car or anywhere else your baby spends time.

It is often hard to quit smoking so ask for help. Call the Quitline on 137 848 or ask your doctor, midwife or child health nurse for information and advice about quitting.

Make Sure Your Cot Meets Current Australian Safety Standards

A safe cot is one that meets the Australian Standard for cots. All new and second-hand cots sold in Australia must meet the current Australian and New Zealand Standard for Cots (AS/NZS 2172:2003) and will carry a label to say so. If you are planning to use a second-hand cot, check that it meets those standards.

Only use a single, firm, mattress that fits snugly (within 20 mm of sides and ends when mattress is centred) into the cot. The mattress must be flat (not tilted or elevated). Do not use cot bumpers or soft bedding as these have been associated with fatal sleep accidents.

Old or second hand cots may be used provided that they are clean, in good working condition and have no protrusions or sharp edges. They too must meet the Australian and New Zealand Standard for cots (AS/NZS 2172:2003). Never place baby in a cot that does not definitely meet current safety standards.

Room Sharing

Room sharing with a baby has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden unexpected infant death. Red Nose therefore recommends sleeping with a baby in a cot next to the parents’ bed for the first six to twelve months of life. 

Whether you room share or not, investing in a baby monitor is a great way to give you added peace of mind when you can’t be in the same place as your baby.  VTech baby monitors have long recognised the importance of safe sleeping practices, and design and develop every one of their Safe & Sound baby monitor products with this in mind.  A key feature across all models is that the baby monitoring unit does not attach to the cot and is therefore less likely to become a hazard. VTech is a proud partner of Red Nose Australia and urge all new parents to ensure their baby’s nursery is a safe environment.


Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).

Breastfeeding is the optimal source of nutrition for a baby, with many benefits for both mother and baby.  Red Nose recognises that not all women can, choose or want to breastfeed. IF you choose to bottle feed, ensure you still need to follow safe sleeping practices.

Protecting Baby from Overheating

Babies control their temperature predominantly through the face and head. Sleeping baby on the back with the head and face uncovered is the best way to protect baby from overheating.

It is not necessary to monitor the room temperature or to leave the heating or cooling on all night, as long as the baby is dressed appropriately for the room temperature: Dress baby as you would dress yourself – comfortably warm, not hot or cold. A good way to check baby’s temperature is to feel the baby’s back or tummy, which should feel warm (don’t worry if baby’s hands and feet feel cool, this is normal).

Remember to remove all head coverings as soon as you go indoors or enter a warm car, bus or train, even if it means waking the baby.

Some of the most common unsafe settings for baby’s sleep-time include leaving baby unattended on an adult bed or bunk bed, placing baby on a waterbed, beanbag, couch, pillow or cushion, or with a sleeping adult or child on a couch, sofa or chair and should be avoided.

Over 10,000 children’s lives have been saved, but still more than 3,000 die every year. Since 1989 Red Nose has been able to invest over $17 million into life-saving research and education programs – resulting in an extraordinary 85% reduction in SIDS deaths.

Red Nose will celebrate its 31st year of saving babies lives this Red Nose Day on Friday August 9 and Australians are encouraged to support Red Nose Day by making adonation purchasing a product including the iconicred noseonline or at BIG W and other retailers, to help stop nine babies dying suddenly and unexpectedly each day.