When my daughter was born, I dreaded bedtime. She didn't sleep well, she only wanted to be held, and there were too many nights that I fell asleep with her on my chest. It's not exactly recommended, but when you're exhausted, new moms will try anything, which is why I'm determined not to make the habit with my next baby. But I'm curious — is it safe for my newborn to sleep on my partner's chest? Without boobs or long hair, and the fact that his chest is a lot broader and flatter than mine, surely it's an option, right?
Being sleep-deprived excuses you for a lot of things, but when it comes to your baby's safety, it's best to follow safe sleep guidelines. And, unfortunately, your little one snoozing on your partner's chest isn't one of them. While your SO's chest may be a much flatter and firmer surface than your own (though this is not always the case), it's still not considered a safe spot for baby to sleep. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, your baby should always be placed on their backs to sleep and they should be placed on a firm sleep surface, like a crib mattress with a fitted sheet. There shouldn't be any soft things like stuffed animals or blankets in the crib, and bed-sharing is also advised against. (Sleeping in the same room as your baby, however, is encouraged.) Basically, your baby should really only be sleeping in their crib, on their back. And no matter how much your SO works out, their chest will never be as firm as a crib mattress. (Don't tell them I said that.)
Of course, these guidelines are important — they promote safe sleep and help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But your baby can end up on your partner's chest for a lot of reasons. If they need to be burped, if they want to snuggle, and if they want some extra skin-to-skin time. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggested in a separate piece that skin-to-skin can help stabilize your baby's heartbeat and breathing, decrease crying, regulate your baby's temperature, and increase their time spent in deep sleep. With all of those benefits, especially that last one, shouldn't there be some leeway on letting your newborn sleep on your partner's chest? Are you supposed to keep your baby fully awake every time they end up on someone's chest?
Of course not, but you shouldn't make it a habit. While your partner's chest may be your baby's favorite place to snooze, it's just not safe for prolonged sleeping. If your partner is sleepy or under any influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, it's also not safe for your newborn to sleep on their chest. Pediatric hospitalist Dr. Clay Jones wrote at The Scientific Parent that not only should your child be healthy if you're letting them rest on your partner's chest, but your SO should also be alert, aware of proper positioning, and should be willing to put baby in a crib or bassinet if they are sleeping for longer than a little cat nap.
If you're still unsure about safe sleep guidelines, it's worth talking to your pediatrician so you can be aware of the risks without being too paranoid to let your baby snuggle on your partner for a little bit. (No matter how your partner identifies or what their chest looks like, this is still important.) There's definitely a balance and your baby's safety should come above all.