Baby Falling Asleep in Your Arms: a Good or Bad Habit?

Find out if this sleep solution is best for baby.
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ByBonnie Vengrow
Contributing Writer
Updated
Mar 2017
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Photo: Meg Perotti

One warning most parents hear over and over is to not get baby into the habit of falling asleep in your arms, because you’ll be rocking him or her well into kindergarten. But really, it’s completely fine for young babies.

“It’s always okay to hold an infant under four months old, to put them to sleep the way they need it,” says Satya Narisety, MD, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Rutgers University. Always put him or her on his or her back on a flat mattress in the crib or bassinet after he or she falls asleep. (It’s the safest way.)

“After three or four months, when baby is developing more regular sleep habits and is capable of sleeping longer stretches at night, reevaluate whether it’s still right for you,” says Narisety. “Every baby and every family is different.” But you probably want to cut it out before baby starts to walk.

“It’s important developmentally for children to be able to sleep and soothe themselves back to sleep,” she says. That’s a skill that could come in handy down the line. You know, when he or she wakes up in the middle of the night and drifts back off without crying out to you—yes, one day it will happen.

Sleep training—giving baby a gentle push to have more regular sleep habits (that hopefully last through the night)—can involve putting baby in the crib while still awake and letting him or her fall asleep on his or her own. Narisety, a mom herself, is a fan of the Ferber method, in which parents comfort baby in the middle of the night, but keep him or her in the crib, promoting self-soothing. Establishing a bedtime routine (for example: bath, book, bed) also encourages good sleep.

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If you want to try sleep training, talk to baby’s doctor first, so he or she can make sure there are no medical issues, like reflux, that could be interfering with baby’s sleep.

"There are moments where parents can soothe them at night, like if they have a nightmare or night terror, but for the most part, I believe children should learn how to put themselves to sleep by the time they’re a toddler,” Narisety says.

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