HealthSheets™


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. Use the tips on this handout to help your baby fall asleep safely.

Where baby sleeps

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 (that meets current safety standards) for your infant. Don't use a car seat, carrier, swing, or similar products for your newborn to sleep.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep in the same room as their parents, close to their parents' bed, but in a separate bed or crib appropriate for infants. This sleeping arrangement is recommended ideally for the baby's first year, but it should at least be maintained for the first 6 months.

  • Do not smoke or allow smoking near your newborn.

Help your baby sleep more safely

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

  • Place your baby on his or her back to sleep, during naps and at night. Studies show this is the best way to reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) 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 and help prevent flattening of the head.

  • Do not 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 does not get overheated or too hot 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 using for your baby.

  • 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. Do not give the baby a pacifier until breastfeeding has been fully established. Breastfeeding and regular checkups help decrease the risks of SIDS.

  • Avoid products that claim to decrease the risk of SIDS such as wedges, positioners, special mattresses, specialized sleep surfaces, or similar products.

  • Always place cribs, bassinets, and play yards in hazard-free areas—those with no dangling cords, wires, or window coverings—to reduce the risk for strangulation.

Hints for getting baby to sleep

Unfortunately, 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.

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