Coping with sleep deprivation and safe sleeping

Being a parent is infinitely rewarding, but it is also challenging. One of the things that can happen when new parents are feeling overly tired is accidentally falling asleep while holding, feeding, or comforting baby. Accidental cosleeping can be dangerous, so it’s important to understand the risk and how to avoid it.

So what can you do to minimise your risk of accidental co-sleeping?

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Babies, as beautiful as they are, need lots of time and attention and this can become extremely tiring for parents.

At Red Nose, we understand the practical needs of parents to get some sleep, especially if you are sleep deprived and feeling fatigued.

We also know that it can feel challenging to follow our six safe sleep recommendations when you are very tired and it may be tempting to do something different.

Following the six safe sleep recommendations for every sleep both day and night, is key to reducing the risk of sudden infant death.

Unfortunately, for some babies, doing something different such as sleeping a baby on their tummy on one occasion can put them at risk.

Always following our six safe sleep recommendations will help to keep your baby safe and give you peace of mind.

Extreme tiredness can be very hard to manage and it can sometimes it can feel hard asking for help but we aren’t meant to do this alone and people are often willing.

If a trusted friend or family member is able to watch the baby for an hour or so while you catch up on sleep it can make a difference. If you are struggling with a lack of sleep, reach out to your maternal health nurse for support.

Sleeping on a sofa or armchair

Red Nose recommends against laying down with baby on a sofa or armchair, because of the risk that you may accidentally fall asleep while holding baby. Sofas and armchairs are dangerous places to fall asleep with your baby. We recommend moving somewhere safer if you think you might fall sleep.

The risk of sudden infant death and sleeping accidents is much higher for babies when they sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with an adult. This is because they can easily slip into a position where they get trapped in the cushions or close to the adult’s skin or clothes and can’t breathe.

If you feel yourself falling asleep, it’s very important to move yourself and your baby into a safe sleep environment, such as a cot.

Red Nose’s advice for safer co-sleeping and bed-sharing is designed to help you minimise your risk. We encourage parents to always remember the safe sleep recommendations, as these are evidence based and will ensure your baby is in a position of safety.

Never bring your baby into bed with you if you are overly tired, have consumed alcohol, drugs or prescription medication that causes drowsiness.

Six safe sleep recommendations:

  1. Always place baby on their back to sleep
  2. Keep baby’s face and head uncovered
  3. Keep baby smoke free, before and after birth
  4. Safe sleeping environment, night and day
  5. Sleep baby in a safe cot in parents’ room for first 6-12 months
  6. Breastfeed baby.

For more tips and advice about keeping baby safe, read our Safer Co-sleeping Guide.


Last modified: 7/1/21