Every parent has been there — endless rocking, bouncing or walking, and though baby falls asleep so soundly in your arms or on your chest, they wake up the instant you put them down. As wonderfully intoxicating as it is to have a baby sleep on you, it's just not always possible or safe to be the only place your babe sleeps. "Why does my baby like to sleep on me?" you might wonder, as you struggle to get them to sleep anywhere but on you, day after day. As it turns out, the answer is simple.
Little babies understand the world in a very sensory way, according to Parents. In fact, studies show that even the smallest of babes can know by smell whether they're being held by one of their parents or by someone else. This type of processing? It can be directly related to why your baby wants to be on you all the time, especially while sleeping.
According to Dr. Gary Kramer, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatrician based in Miami, Florida, the first three months of an infant's life is often referred to as "the fourth trimester." "The implication here," Kramer says to Romper, "is that babies continue to perpetuate the bond developed in the womb over the nine months of pregnancy." Some research has suggested that sleeping on a mother's chest in particular is associated with lower heart rate, better sleep cycles, and a reduction in anxiety for the infant. "That said," Kramer says, "concerns regarding infant safety must be kept in mind."
The March of Dimes noted that there’s a key difference between bed-sharing and safe co-sleeping. Bed-sharing may put your baby at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other dangers during sleep, like suffocation. But, safe co-sleeping, like having your baby in a crib or bassinet close to your own sleep space, is not only completely safe, but also recommended. When you sleep close enough to your baby that you can see, hear, touch, or smell each other, it’s called co-sleeping. Though bed-sharing is a form of co-sleeping, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended co-sleeping without bed-sharing.
There’s definitely a legitimate reason why your baby likes to sleep on you — you are their safe space. The cuddles can’t be beat, but when you do need to put your babe down, making sure their own sleep space is safe will give you peace of mind.