Every since I was young, I've had a fear of pregnancy. And not just being pregnant myself, but being around anyone who is pregnant. Though I know the babies are safe in their mothers' womb, I've always worried the slightest touch would cause them to be harmed. Similarly, I've grown fearful of newborn babies because there are so many things that can happen to them, too — especially while they're sleeping. With co-sleeping becoming more popular for parents, one of the main questions I (and many others) have is this one: "Is it safe for a newborn to sleep on my chest?"
"If you're awake, it's perfectly fine to watch them snooze on your chest. If you feel sleepy, then put your baby in their crib or bassinet."
It's when you fall asleep too that having your little one snoozing on your chest can get dangerous. As you're likely aware, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns against co-sleeping because of the associated increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): "Babies who sleep in the same bed as their parents are at risk of SIDS, suffocation, or strangulation," according to the AAP's website, HealthyChildren.org.
"Parents can roll onto babies during sleep, or babies can get tangled in the sheets or blankets. Parents can roll onto babies during sleep, or babies can get tangled in the sheets or blankets."
That said, the more time you can spend holding and cuddling your baby (when you're awake), the better. As the Cleveland Clinic noted, all that skin-to-skin contact can promote bonding, feelings of security, and even enhance brain development.
Sleeping on an awake parent's chest can help babies to feel calmer, too. Research conducted by Dr. Nils Bergman, a pediatrician at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and founder of the "Kangaroo Mother Care" movement, found that babies' hearts "were under up to three times more stress when they slept in a cot, rather than on their mother's chest," reported The Telegraph. The sleeping patterns of 16 infants were analyzed for the study, the results of which emphasized the benefits of skin-to-skin touch.
Yet another reason why babies might like to sleep on your chest: the sound of your heartbeat.
"It reproduces the in utero environment where mom’s pulse was the primary and constant sound the baby heard," Nicole Porter, Ph.D., a sleep and fatigue specialist, told Romper for a previous article. "It's familiar and comforting."
So, what should a parent do when looking at the debatable facts of each option? Although letting your baby sleep on your chest does have some perks, parents should take the advice of their doctor and make sure that they don't nod off along with their baby. If you must place your baby on your chest to get them to fall asleep, try transporting them to their bassinet and placing them on their back after they've drifted off.
Jean Moorjani, M.D., pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children
This post was originally published on 7/9/2019. It was updated on 9/4/2019.
This article was originally published on