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Laying Your Baby Down to Sleep

Woman laying baby down to sleep on back.
Always lay your baby on his or her back to sleep.

Your newborn is growing quickly, which uses a lot of energy. As a result, your baby may sleep for a total of 18 hours a day. Chances are, your newborn will not sleep for long stretches. But there are no rules for when or how long a baby sleeps. These tips may help your baby fall asleep safely.

Where should your baby sleep?

Where your baby sleeps depends on what’s right for you and your family. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you decide:

  • A tiny newborn may feel more secure in a bassinet than in a crib.

  • Always use a firm sleep surface for your infant. Make sure it meets current safety standards. Don't use a car seat, carrier, swing, or similar places for your newborn to sleep.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that infants sleep in the same room as their parents. The infant should be close to their parents' bed, but in a separate bed or crib for infants. This is advised ideally for the baby's first year. But it should at least be used for the first 6 months.

Helping your baby sleep safely

These tips are for a healthy baby up to the age of 1 year. Protect your baby with these crib safety tips:

  • Place your baby on his or her back to sleep. Do this both during naps and at night. Studies show this is the best way to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or other sleep-related causes of infant death. Only give "tummy-time" when your baby is awake and someone is watching him or her. Supervised tummy time will help your baby build strong tummy and neck muscles. It will also help prevent flattening of the head.

  • Don't put an infant on his or her stomach to sleep.

  • Make sure nothing is covering your baby's head.

  • Never lay a baby down to sleep on an adult bed, a couch, a sofa, comforters, blankets, pillows, cushions, a quilt, waterbed, sheepskin, or other soft surfaces. Doing so can increase a baby's risk of suffocating.

  • Make sure soft objects, stuffed toys, and loose bedding are not in your baby’s sleep area. Don’t use blankets, pillows, quilts, and or crib bumpers in cribs or bassinets. These can raise a baby's risk of suffocating.

  • Make sure your baby doesn't get overheated when sleeping. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you and your baby. Dress your baby lightly. Instead of using blankets, keep your baby warm by dressing him or her in a sleep sack, or a wearable blanket.

  • Fix or replace any loose or missing crib bars before use.

  • Make sure the space between crib bars is no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. This way, baby can’t get his or her head stuck between the bars.

  • Make sure the crib does not have raised corner posts, sharp edges, or cutout areas on the headboard.

  • Offer a pacifier (not attached to a string or a clip) to your baby at naptime and bedtime. Don't give the baby a pacifier until breastfeeding has been fully established. Breastfeeding and regular checkups help decrease the risks of SIDS.

  • Don't use products that claim to decrease the risk of SIDS. This includes wedges, positioners, special mattresses, special sleep surfaces, or other products.

  • Always place cribs, bassinets, and play yards in hazard-free areas. Make sure there are no dangling cords, wires, or window coverings. This is to reduce the risk of strangulation.

  • Don't smoke or allow smoking near your newborn.

Hints for getting your baby to sleep

You can’t schedule when or how long your baby sleeps. But you can help your baby go to sleep. Try these tips:

  • Make sure your baby is fed, burped, and has spent quiet time in your arms before being laid down to sleep.

  • Use soothing sensation, such as rocking or sucking on a thumb or hand sucking. Most babies like rhythmic motion.

  • During the day, talk and play with your baby. A baby who is overtired may have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep at night.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2019
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