Safe Sleep 

When you create a safe sleep environment for your baby, you are lowering the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is one of the main causes of death in healthy infants. The cause of SIDS is unknown but the following are ways to lower the risk:

  • Always place your baby on their back for naps and at night
  • Put your baby to sleep alone in their crib, cradle, or bassinet
    • Make sure their crib, cradle, or bassinet is empty of toys, loose bedding, pillows, and bumper pads
    • Use a firm crib, cradle, or bassinet mattress with only a tight-fitting sheet
    • Use a crib, cradle, or bassinet that meets Canadian safety regulations
    • Make sure your baby's face is not covered
  • Keep the baby next to your bed for the first 6 month
  • Breastfeed your baby
  • Dress your baby in light clothing
    • Make sure the room is not too hot (ideally between 16-200C)
  • Provide a smoke-free environment before and after your baby is born
  • Make sure that anyone who cares for your baby is aware of this information
  • For Health Canada recommendations on bed sharing and co-sleeping (room sharing) please visit the Health Canada website.
 Bedsharing with your child

If you decide to share a bed with your child, follow these simple rules:

  • Keep your baby on his back, on a flat firm surface away from pillows, duvet or thick blankets.
  • Make sure your baby cannot fall out of bed or become trapped between the mattress and wall.
  • Don’t leave your baby alone in the bed, as even very young babies can move into a dangerous position.
  • Keep your room smoke-free.  Baby should not sleep with a smoker.
  • Sleep in the C-position (“cuddle curl”), with the infant's head across from the adult's breast, adult's legs and arm(s) curled around the infant, infant on their back, away from the pillow, is the optimal safe sleeping position 

Never sleep with your child if:

  • Your baby was born premature (less than 37 weeks gestation) or with low birth weight (less than 2,500 g)
  • You have been drinking any alcohol or taking drugs that may cause drowsiness (legal or illegal).
  • You are in an armchair, a sofa, a recliner or any surface that is not flat and firm.
 Baby boxes

The following is provided for information only and is not an endorsement by Ottawa Public Health of any particular product or service.

Baby boxes originated in Finland in 1938 and were distributed by the Finnish government to expectant parents. The box is filled with clothes and baby items and the box itself is used as a sleep space for the baby's first months.

Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) advises that baby boxes intended for sleep are not approved by Health Canada and are not subject to pre-market approval, and must meet federal regulatory requirements. Please refer to the above-noted link for additional information on baby boxes and on applicable regulations and laws.   

Ottawa Public Health reminds you that the safest place for your baby to sleep is on his or her back, in a crib, cradle or bassinet that meets all applicable laws and regulation. However, when used carefully baby boxes can provide a safer alternative to placing a baby on an unsafe sleep surface, such as a couch, adult bed with loose bedding.   

The PHAC also reminds you to keep the following in mind:

  • Choose a baby box which complies with the Cribs, Cradles and Bassinets Regulations (CCBR) and is designed for infant sleep. To know if a product is compliant with the CCBR, the manufacturer of the baby box needs to contacted directly.
  • Ensure the box is placed on a stable surface and the instructions are followed.
  • Regularly check the condition of the box, ensuring that leaks or spills have not deteriorated the sides or bottom of the box.
  • Follow safe sleep key messages, such as placing the box close to the parent/caregiver's bed, no additional bedding or stuffed toys added to the box, with the baby placed in the box alone and on their back.

Information adapted from:  Public Health Agency of Canada. Information Note to Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP) and Community Action Program for Children (CAPC) Sites, Subject: Baby Boxes. Ottawa, January 2017.



Sleep Behaviour

You may ask yourself, "Why isn't my child sleeping through the night?" This may be a worry for you and unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Try not to get down on yourself. As your child changes and grows so does their sleep behaviour. Here are a few things to consider:

Sleep pattern

Your newborn's sleep pattern may not be regular because their brain is not yet mature. They have different sleep patterns than adults. It is usually not until 6 months of age that they are able to sleep 6 hours straight. Every child is different.

Bedtime routine

It is important for you to have the same routine with your baby or toddler before bed. This routine may be hard to establish at first but will get easier as your child grows.

For more information on sleep, visit the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Centre of Excellence.

Dealing with your child's lack of sleep can affect your own sleep. It can be physically and emotionally hard on you. During these hard times it is important to stay calm and remember to never shake a baby or toddler.

Also, if you are not feeling like yourself or you are worrying your partner, it is important to get help. Some women experience postpartum blues or postpartum depression.

How much sleep does my baby or toddler need?

According to the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (0-4 years):

  • Babies 0 to 3 months need 14-17 hours of good quality sleep per day including naps
  • Babies 4 to 11 months need 12-16 hours including naps
  • Toddlers 1 to 2 years old need 11 – 14 hours of good quality sleep per day including naps.
  • Preschoolers 3-4 years old need 10 to 13 hours of good quality sleep per day with naps. 

For more information on infant sleep needs, visit the Canadian Pediatric Society's Healthy Sleep for Your Baby and Child webpage

Do you have more questions about parenting?

  • Connect with a registered nurse from Health811 for free, secure, and confidential health advice. Service is available 24/7 in English and French, with translation support also offered in other languages. Call 8-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with a Community Navigator from 2-1-1 for information about community programs and resources across Eastern Ontario. Helpline service is available 24/7 and in many different languages. Call 2-1-1 or visit
  • Connect with other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page.
  • There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa.
  • You can update your child's immunization record using either the CANImmunize App or the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) Tool
  • If you have received a message from Ottawa Public Health such as a letter or a call regarding immunization, an infectious disease, or infection control lapse, please call 613-580-6744 and listen to the menu options carefully.

September 2019

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