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Where Should Your Baby Sleep?

Expert Pediatrics Q&A

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Updated April 16, 2014

Q. We are having a little trouble getting our baby to sleep unless we leave her in her car seat. Is that okay? -- Carla, Detroit

A. New parents are often told to put their babies to sleep wherever they sleep best, but that really isn't good advice. 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.

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.

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.

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 a feeding intolerance.

What You Need To Know

  • 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.



Sources:

Aurore Cote, Aida Bairam, Marianne Deschesne, and George Hatzakis. Sudden infant deaths in sitting devices. Arch Dis Child Published Online First: 19 July 2007. doi:10.1136/adc.2007.119180

American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The Changing Concept of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Diagnostic Coding Shifts, Controversies Regarding the Sleeping Environment, and New Variables to Consider in Reducing Risk. Pediatrics. 2005 116: 1245-1255.

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