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

By Amy Phoenix
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Babies are precious, and caregivers want the best for them. When it comes to sleep, some caregivers just don't get enough. A caregiver must balance everyday responsibilities while also caring for her baby, and can be difficult to get enough sleep. Falling asleep while holding a baby can be dangerous. Thankfully, ways exist that can ensure safe sleep for both caregiver and the baby.


One of the most startling realities about falling asleep while holding a baby is the potential for suffocation. If a caregiver falls asleep in a chair, couch, or other soft surface, the caregiver could accidentally smother the baby, or the baby could slip into a space in chair or couch that blocks his airways, according to the National Center for Child Death Review Policy and Practice. This can result in suffocation.


When a caregiver falls asleep with a baby in arms, it is possible that the caregiver will lose conscious awareness of holding the baby -- in effect, leaving the baby alone. The baby can fall out of the caregiver's arms. If the baby falls from an elevated surface, injury can result, according to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the teaching hospital for Northwestern University.

Bed Sharing

If you hold your baby while you are in bed, you may start to feel sleepy. Bed sharing is controversial but the AskDrSears.com website provides some tips for safe co-sleeping, if that works for your family. Put baby to sleep on his back, use tight-fitting sheets to reduce the possibility of smothering or entanglement, use a large bed for plenty of space, and place baby adjacent to mother, as moms are generally more aware of their babies while they sleep than are other family members.


Caregivers get sleepy, and this can happen even when holding or rocking a baby to sleep. One way to reduce the danger of falling asleep while holding the baby is to create a safe area where you can be near your baby as you both fall asleep -- but not on an elevated surface from which your baby could fall. Some additional ideas to ensure safety when you feel sleepy include getting a drink of water, talking with someone to stay awake, and finding a space you can both rest safely.

About the Author

Amy Phoenix began writing professionally in 2005. Her work has appeared in various online publications, including Mothering. Phoenix is a certified parent educator, trained meditation facilitator, and enjoys writing about natural health, parenting, spirituality, and organization.