Safe sleep for your baby

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Key points to remember

  • every year, too many New Zealand babies die suddenly during sleep
  • many of these deaths can be prevented
  • there are ways you can help protect your baby from dying suddenly in their sleep 

How can you help protect your baby from dying suddenly in their sleep?

  • making sure baby is in their own bed for every sleep (and close to parents/caregivers at night)
  • making sure baby is on their back for every sleep
  • keeping baby smokefree from the start
  • breastfeeding your baby
  • immunising your baby on time

This fact sheet contains key messages about making every sleep a safe sleep to prevent babies from dying suddenly in their sleep.

Make every sleep a safe sleep

Always follow these safe-sleep routines for your baby and your baby’s bed.

Make sure your baby is safe

  • always sleeps on their back to keep their airways clear
  • is in their own bassinet, cot or other baby bed – free from adults or children who might accidentally suffocate them
  • has a parent/caregiver who is alert to their needs and free from alcohol or drugs

Make sure your baby’s bed is safe

Image of baby in their own safe bed - with a firm flat mattress, no gaps between the frame and mattress, and nothing in the bed that might cover the baby's face or lift their head

  • has a firm and flat mattress – to keep baby’s airways open
  • has no gaps between the frame and the mattress – that could trap or wedge baby
  • has nothing in the bed that might cover baby’s face or lift their head – no pillows, toys, loose bedding or bumper pads
  • is close to their parents/caregivers at night for the first 6 months of life

Make sure your baby is healthy and strong

  • smokefree in pregnancy and after birth – protecting their lungs and airways
  • exclusively breastfed to around 6 months of age and continues to be breastfed to 12 months of age
  • immunised on time

If you choose to sleep in bed with your baby, put them in their own baby bed beside you – for example, a pēpi-pod® (below left) or wahakura (below right). This will help reduce the risk of your baby suffocating while they are asleep.

Image of father leaning over baby in a pēpi-pod®

Image showing mother asleep in bed with her baby. The baby is in his own bed beside her.



It is never safe to put your baby to sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or on a chair.

Car seats or capsules protect your baby when travelling in the car. Don’t use them as a cot or bassinet.

If you need financial assistance so that baby can have their own bed, you may be eligible for help from Work and Income. For more information visit the Work and Income website or call 0800 559 009.

Protect your baby's head shape

When your baby is sleeping, turn their head so that sometimes they face left and sometimes they face right.

Tummy time while baby is awake will help protect their head shape and make their arms strong.

  • back for sleep
  • front for play
  • upright for cuddles and hugs

For more information, see:

Where to go for more information

  • speak to your midwife, Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse, doctor or practice nurse
  • ring PlunketLine on 0800 933 922


Reproduced from the pamphlet Keep your baby safe during sleep (Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Agency, The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, Well Child Tamariki Ora Programme, and The Office of the Chief Coroner of New Zealand), revised May 2013. 

Our thanks to Change for our Children for permission to reproduce the photo of the father with his baby in a pēpi-pod®.

This page last reviewed 02 August 2013
© Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 – 2015
Printed on 28 May 2015. Content is regularly updated so please refer to for the most up-to-date version
Content endorsed by the Paediatric Society of New Zealand