Health library

Back to health library

Sleep like a baby: Keeping infants safe while they snooze

As a new parent, you're going to be in charge of all your baby's needs—including their sleep. But just remember: Your precious new arrival has special safety needs when it comes to sleep.

Let's talk about the right way to lay your sleepy baby down to rest. 

Back sleep is best 

Until they're 1 year old, babies should sleep on their backs (not on their sides or stomachs). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), babies who sleep on their backs have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Make sure that anyone who helps care for your baby knows this rule.

To prevent flat spots on your baby's head and to help your baby strengthen their developing muscles, give them "tummy time" for a few minutes at a time each day. To do this, place your awake baby on their stomach and stay with them.  

Create a safe zone for ZZZs

Your baby needs a safe place to snooze, such as a crib, bassinet or play yard that meets current safety standards. The sleep surface should be firm and covered by a fitted sheet. Don't let your baby sleep on a couch or chair. 

Keep your baby's sleep area free of objects, such as pillows, blankets, quilts, toys or crib bumper pads. Your sleeping baby may not be able to breathe if he or she rolls into these things. 

Don't let your baby's room get too hot or cold. You can dress your little one in a sleep outfit, such as a sleep onesie or (if more warmth is needed) an infant sleep sack.

Park your baby's crib close to you

Sleeping in the same room as your baby (but not in the same bed!) is recommended for up to a year. It may cut the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%. It's OK to feed your baby in bed—but try not to fall asleep. If you think you might conk out, remove pillows, soft bedding or other items that could harm your baby. 

Offer your baby a pacifier

Pacifiers can help reduce the risk of SIDS. However, if you're breastfeeding, wait until you and baby are doing that successfully, advises the AAP. Don't force the pacifier.  

And speaking of breastfeeding, that's another way to reduce the risk of SIDS. 

When you need to soothe the baby 

As you'll soon learn, newborns don't sleep for long stretches of time. That's because their tiny tummies can't hold a lot yet, so they wake up needing to eat every few hours. You can try gently rocking your baby or playing soft music (cue the classical tunes) if baby has trouble getting back to sleep. 

More pregnancy news

Your first week home with your baby can be a bit daunting. Rest assured, you're going to do great. Check out these tips to make the transition easier

Reviewed 3/17/2022

Related stories