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What Are the Dangers of Falling Asleep While Holding a Baby?

author image Sara Ipatenco
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.
What Are the Dangers of Falling Asleep While Holding a Baby?
Falling asleep while holding your baby increases his risk of suffocation. Photo Credit Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Caring for a baby is exhausting, and if you're sitting while holding your infant, it's easy to become so drowsy that you end up falling asleep. Resist the desire to fall asleep, however, because sleeping while holding your infant increases her risk of injury. In rare cases, it can be fatal. If you're sleepy and have the luxury of a nap, take one, but put your baby down in a safe place first.


Babies shouldn't have anything soft, such as quilts, comforters, pillows or stuffed animals, in their sleeping space because it increases their risk of suffocating. Infants are too small to turn their face away when something covers their mouth and nose, which is why experts caution parents against using these items in their baby's crib. The same goes for your clothing, if you fall asleep while holding your baby. As you relax and slump down when you fall asleep, it's more likely that your clothes will cover your baby's mouth and nose, preventing her from getting enough oxygen. The SafeKidsUSA website takes it one step further and cautions you against falling asleep while breastfeeding, too, because that also increases your baby's risk of suffocation.

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If you fall asleep while you're holding your baby, your grip on her can relax. When you're not holding your baby tightly, the risk of her rolling out of your arms increases. If your baby rolls onto the floor, she is susceptible to serious injuries, including contusions, bruising and lacerations. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services cautions against falling asleep while holding your infant because if she rolls away from you she can get caught between the mattress and bed frame, if you're sleeping in your bed. She might slip between the cushions and frame of the couch, which can also cause suffocation. If your baby rolls into soft bedding or a pillow, it also increases her risk of suffocation.

Sleeping On Stomach

If you snuggle your baby on your chest, he's probably sleeping on his stomach, which isn't necessarily dangerous, if you're awake and can keep an eye on him. However, when babies sleep on their stomachs, they're at a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome, according to HealthyChildren.org. If it's hot in your house, your baby might become overheated when he's pressed up against your chest, and getting too hot also increases your baby's risk of SIDS.

Safety Tips

If you tend to fall asleep while you breastfeed your baby, find ways to stay alert. Perhaps you might listen to some upbeat music or call a friend to chat while your baby nurses. If you nurse in the middle of the night, get out of bed so you're more alert. As soon as your baby is done eating, put her back in her crib so you don't end up falling asleep while you're snuggling her. If you're enjoying a cuddle with your baby and start to feel drowsy, get up and walk around your house while you're holding your baby. If you decide to nap as well, put your baby in her crib before falling asleep.

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