No matter how much you try, you will likely find that sleep is elusive for you in those early days of parenthood.
Many babies just want to be close to mom at all times, and this can make putting your baby down to rest difficult. In fact, it almost feels like babies are built to live attached to our bodies once they exit the womb.
Why do babies like to sleep on your chest? The biggest reason babies want to sleep on your chest is that they find it comforting. Your smells, sounds, and touch surround them. They can see you easily when they open their eyes if they are on your chest, and the entire sensory experience helps most babies rest easier.
However, safety can be a concern when it comes to sleep positions for your little one. Weighing the benefits and dangers will help you choose the wisest, safest option for your baby.
Baby Sleeping on Chest – 8 Reasons Why They Like It
The reasons your baby wants to sleep right against your chest are logical.
1. Sound of Your Heartbeat
Your heartbeat is a sound your child recognizes. He’s been listening to it since his time in the womb. With his tiny ear pressed to your chest, that familiar sound is present while your little one falls asleep.
2. Feel Safe and Secure
You’ve probably noticed that your baby loves to be swaddled and cuddled but may struggle when left on his back with nothing to contain him.
Your arms around your baby offer security and a feeling of safety that being put in a crib with arms flailing does not offer.
3. Know Exactly Where You Are
Your child’s eyesight in those early weeks is not going to be great. Your child will not be able to see very far, so you will be out of their range of vision quickly once you put them down.
When your child sleeps on your chest, they can feel your presence and look right up when they wake to see your face.
Your baby is still learning to regulate his body temperature, and being close to you helps this happen. Your body heat helps keep your baby warm, and this means your child will sleep better and more comfortably in most cases.
5. Your Rhythmic Breathing
As you gently inhale and exhale, the rhythmic pattern will calm your baby and lull him to sleep. When he stays on your chest, that continued rhythm will help him sleep peacefully.
6. Your Scent
Your baby really doesn’t care if you have BO or haven’t had time for a shower in a while. He just loves the smell of you, including the smell of your breastmilk. Your scent signals home to your little one.
7. Lower Chance of Experiencing Moro Reflex
You’ve probably had the experience of trying to put your baby on his back only to have him startle like he was being dropped. That’s the Moro reflex, and it’s a perfectly normal baby reaction.
However, letting your baby sleep on your chest means skipping his abrupt wake-up when this reflex kicks in as soon as his back touches the crib mattress.
8. It’s What They Are Accustomed To
Babies want to be close to their moms — it’s what they know. Your child has grown accustomed to the sound of your heart and voice, and they spent their time in the womb warmly surrounded by you.
No wonder they don’t want to give all that up when they pop out into the real world.
Baby Sleeping on Chest – Benefits
As long as you stay awake, there are tons of benefits to letting your baby sleep on your chest.
Most babies sleep longer when they sleep on mom’s chest, and this can help with growth and development. It will also likely lead to a less cranky baby overall.
Letting your baby sleep on your chest can also create beautiful bonding experiences for you and your child. Your child will feel more relaxed resting on your chest, but you may find that you also feel calmer with him against you.
Oxytocin, that amazing cuddle hormone, can reduce stress levels and help you feel at peace while your child rests.
Baby Sleeping on Chest – Potential Dangers
There are risks to letting your child sleep on your chest. You need to know these risks so you can avoid them or make sure to put your child to sleep in his crib when it’s time for rest.
The risk of your child succumbing to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome does increase if your child sleeps on his stomach or with a parent. While it can be safe if you stay awake, there is always the possibility that you won’t.
Is It Safe for Babies To Sleep on Their Stomach on Your Chest?
It is only safe for your baby to sleep on their stomach on your chest if you stay awake and aware the entire time.
In fact, your child shouldn’t sleep on your chest on his back either if you are going to sleep as well. Both positions are unsafe if the adult is not awake to supervise.
You May Fall Asleep Too
It’s easy to think you won’t fall asleep, but the early days of parenting are the very definition of sleep deprivation.
The warmth of your child’s body combined with oxytocin running through you will lead your eyelids to get heavy. Even if you don’t mean to, it’s easy to fall asleep with an infant in your arms.
Can Be Difficult To Break the Habit in the Future
Once your baby gets used to sleeping on your chest, it may be difficult for them to transition to their crib. This is a problem because you eventually need to sleep, and you can’t do that safely with your infant on your chest.
Breaking this habit is possible, but it can mean lots of tears and restless sleep.
Baby Sleeping on Dad’s Chest
It’s fine for your baby to sleep on dad’s chest as long as dad is awake. In fact, if your baby sleeps better when cuddled, dad taking a turn could give you a chance to get some real sleep on your own.
However, dad needs to stay awake and aware the entire time, or the risk of SIDS increases.
Baby Will Only Sleep on Me at Night
If your baby will only sleep on you at night, I get it. All of my children preferred being up against my body where they could smell their food source and hear my heartbeat.
As much as I loved the cuddles, I also needed to rest. Fortunately, there are ways to transition your baby from sleeping on your chest to sleeping in their crib.
How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Without Being Held
When your baby is in the habit of sleeping on your chest, it can feel like they will never sleep any other way. However, you can transition them to sleeping without being held.
Swaddle blankets saved my sleep life, and they can help you too! My kids would only sleep swaddled for the first several months of their lives. Though I think they knew they weren’t in my arms during this time, they were fooled enough to rest.
The key for me was swaddling my babies when I knew I was going to be putting them down for sleep.
I would swaddle, rock, and cuddle, and then I would actually be able to put them down drowsy while they still felt cocooned. It worked a lot of the time.
Respect Wake Windows
An overtired child will not fall asleep faster. In fact, if you let your child get too tired, good luck getting them to sleep at all. That’s why you need to be aware of wake windows and respect your child’s limits.
Wake windows are the maximum amount of time your child needs to be awake before you put them down to sleep. By following wake windows, it’s easier to put your child down when he’s tired but not overtired.
He will be drowsy enough to want to rest but not so tired that he goes into panic mode the minute he realizes you aren’t holding him.
Try White Noise
Try using a white noise machine (this one is perfect — it’s WiFi enabled with a built-in nightlight and features time-for-bed and time-to-rise settings.) or finding a station on Spotify that plays white noise.
Ashley here. We’ve used this sound machine/nightlight combo for our twins since birth. They LOVE it and we do too. I really like that it has a built-in battery making it portable and able to work if power goes out.
This sound can lull your child to sleep. When they wake up, they will hear it and may just fall back to sleep instead of demanding your presence.
Use the Pacifier
Everyone has feelings about pacifiers, and they can be an advantage or disadvantage at bedtime. For most kids, the pacifier will keep them occupied and can help them fall asleep while they use it.
However, the flip side is that you may end up with a child who screams every time the pacifier falls out of his mouth. Try it and see what happens.
Keep Touching Your Baby
I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to put your baby down and relax after a long day of parenting, but you may be able to avoid a panicked baby by making the transition to the crib a multi-step process.
You can gently place your child in the crib, trying not to set off the Moro reflex. Don’t immediately pull your hands out of the crib. Instead, gently put a hand on your baby’s chest or stroke his cheek.
Your movements should be gentle and unobtrusive, but the reassurance of your presence for even a couple of minutes may help your baby start to drift off before he panics about not being held.
Create a Routine
Whatever you do, create a bedtime routine. Try to follow the same order each night so your baby knows what to expect.
Can Baby Overheat Sleeping on My Chest?
There’s always the chance of a baby overheating. However, if your child is asleep on your chest and you are awake, then you should see the signs before it happens.
If your baby is sweating profusely or seems uncomfortable, you can make sure he’s not overheating and take off some of his clothes if he is too hot.
However, if you fall asleep while your baby is on your chest and he overheats, this can increase the risk of SIDS.
Why Does My Baby Wake Up Every Time I Put Him Down?
Blame that pesky Moro reflex for causing your baby to wake up every time he is put down to rest. Your child startles as if he is falling, and this wakes him up abruptly.
If you’re awake, your baby can sleep on your chest, but if you need to rest, your child needs to sleep elsewhere for safety reasons.
Kristy is the mother of four, including identical twins. With a background in education and research, she is constantly learning more about parenting and raising multiples. When she has spare time, she enjoys hiking into the woods with a great book to take a break.