Suffocation risks to your baby or child

Children can suffocate if something covers their nose and mouth. This can happen when your baby is asleep, presses their face against material or if something clings onto their face.

Suffocation can happen when a child gets caught between the mattress and the cot or bed.

Suffocation is an example of asphyxia. Asphyxia happens when someone cannot breathe properly and oxygen does not reach the body's organs. It is one of the most common causes of childhood deaths.

Emergency action required: Call 112 or 999:

  • your child is having breathing difficulties or any other medical emergency


Always keep your baby's cot or crib clear.

Never place soft objects or anything loose or fluffy in it, such as:

  • pillows
  • duvets
  • bumpers
  • sleep positioners
  • wedges
  • bedding rolls
  • toys
  • comfort blankets

Use cellular aerated blankets. These allow air to circulate.

Cot death (suddent infant death syndrome)

Cot mattress

Make sure your child's mattress is firm, flat and fits the cot correctly. This prevents your child's head or limbs getting trapped in a gap between the mattress and the edge of the cot or bed.

Bed-sharing and co-sleeping

Bed-sharing or co-sleeping can be dangerous. It can increase your baby's risk of suffocation.

Your baby can slip under the bed covers or roll under an adult. They could also get trapped between the bed and the wall, or fall out of the bed.

A separate cot is safest. If breastfeeding your baby, return them to their own cot to sleep.

Never fall asleep with your baby on a sofa, couch, armchair or beanbag.

Car seats and other sitting devices

Never use a sitting device for your baby's routine sleep.

For example:

  • bouncers
  • high chairs
  • buggies
  • swings or car seats

Sitting in a sleeping position can cause your baby's head to fall forward and make it difficult for them to breathe.

If your baby falls asleep in one of these devices, remove them and place them on their back to sleep as soon as possible.

Long car journeys

If going on a long car journey, plan for breaks where you can safely park your car. Then take your baby out of the car seat. Place them on their back on your lap or on the back seat while you supervise closely. Return your baby safely to the car seat before you drive again.

Plastic bags and nappy sacks

Plastic can cling to your baby's face and cause suffocation. Store plastic packaging out of your child's reach at all times.

This includes:

  • plastic bags
  • plastic nappy sacks
  • dry-cleaning packaging


To use any kind of carrier or sling safely, follow these guidelines, shortened to TICKS. This is to prevent your baby from suffocating.

  • T - Tight enough to hug your baby close to you.
  • I - In view at all times, with their face not covered with material or clothing.
  • C - Close enough to kiss
  • K - Keep your baby’s chin off their chest so that airway remains unobstructed
  • S - Supported back

If your baby falls asleep in a sling you should put them down to sleep in a cot on their back if at all possible.

Find out more about slings and carriers -


Always remove your child's bib after eating and before they go to sleep.

Hairbands and headbands

Do not put hairbands or headbands on children under the age of 3. Hairbands and headbands can slip down. They can cover your child's mouth and nose. This can cause suffocation. 

Page last reviewed: 14 October 2022
Next review due: 14 October 2025