Where Should Your Baby Sleep?

Mother and baby sleeping
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New parents are often told to put their babies to sleep wherever they sleep best, but that really isn't good advice. There are safer places for your baby to sleep, and places that may be riskier.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, your baby should sleep:

  • In a bassinet, cradle, or crib that is near her mother's bed.
  • On her back, not on her side or stomach.
  • On a firm sleep surface, such as a firm crib mattress, which has been covered by a well-fitted sheet.
  • Without any soft objects (pillows and toys) or loose bedding (blankets and sheets) in her bassinet, cradle, or crib.

You should also make sure that your baby doesn't get overheated while she is sleeping.

Room Sharing But Not Bed Sharing

While you should share your room with your baby, that doesn't mean sharing your bed. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safest way to sleep with your baby is for parents to share their room (but not their bed) for the first six months to year of life. They note that room sharing may reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%. By not sharing the same bed as the parents, the risk of accidental suffocation is reduced.

Car Seat Precautions

While a newborn or young infant won't necessarily pick up any bad habits by sleeping in a car seat, it isn't the safest place for her to be sleeping.

One study on cases of SIDS found that a very small percentage of infants who died were seated in car seats. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't put your baby in a car seat when you are driving in the car. However, you likely should find a more appropriate place for your baby to sleep.

The points to consider are:

  • The main reason to avoid putting your baby to sleep in a car seat is that there is a very small association with SIDS.
  • Infants who are in a car seat for too long can also be at higher risk for developing positional plagiocephaly, or a flat head.
  • Eventually, your baby will likely get used to sleeping in a car seat, swing, or wherever else you put her to sleep. Stick to the AAP recommendations and put your baby to sleep in her bassinet, cradle, or crib.

Getting Your Baby to Sleep

If you are having trouble getting your baby to sleep in a crib, consider using a bassinet or cradle instead. A full-size crib is sometimes too big for a newborn or young infant.

Swaddling is a very good technique that often helps babies get to sleep, stay asleep, and get comforted quickly, especially when they are newborns. A properly-swaddled baby feels warm and secure, and the wrap can help prevent a baby from throwing his arms up and startling himself or even scratching his face.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is a high risk of death if a swaddled infant is placed in or rolls to the prone position, and provides the following guidelines: "if infants are swaddled, they should always be placed on the back. Swaddling should be snug around the chest but allow for ample room at the hips and knees to avoid exacerbation of hip dysplasia. When an infant exhibits signs of attempting to roll, swaddling should no longer be used."

Your pediatrician can be a good resource if your baby is still not sleeping well, especially to make sure that she doesn't have colic, reflux, or feeding intolerance.

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Article Sources

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  1. SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162938. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2938

  2. Côté A, Bairam A, Deschenes M, Hatzakis G. Sudden infant deaths in sitting devices. Arch Dis Child. 2008;93(5):384-9. doi:10.1136/adc.2007.119180

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