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Safe Sleep Tips for Sleep-Deprived Parents

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By: Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP

New parents know that getting their baby to sleep through the night does not happen overnight. When it comes to sleep and newborns, every baby is different. But when they're up every one or two hours, so are you.

It can be a struggle for tired new parents to resist the urge to let their baby sleep with them in bed, on the sofa or another place to sleep that is unsafe and puts the baby at risk of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID).

Here are some tips to get your baby safely to sleep when you're sleepy yourself.

Set easy-to-remember routines

Try to do the same things each day in the same order at naptime and bedtime.

Work with your partner to create your safe sleep routine and include methods that both of you can do. This could be giving a bath, rocking, swaddling and then placing your baby on their back in their crib or bassinet. Remember that padding, bumpers, blankets and toys can cause suffocation. Keep them out of the crib or bassinet to keep your baby safe.

Sticking to sleep routines with a newborn can feel overwhelming at first, but everything takes practice!

Have tools to help you stay awake during feedings

Think about how tired you are before you start a feeding session. If there is any chance you might fall asleep, make some changes to your environment to help reduce risks. For example:

  • Avoid feeding your baby on a couch or armchair.

  • Remove all items and bedding from the area.

  • Ask someone to stay with you while you are breastfeeding.

  • Have a light snack (and drink plenty of water if you are breastfeeding).

  • Set an alarm on your phone or watch to go off every few minutes or listen to a podcast.

If you fall asleep while feeding your baby, place them on their back in their bassinet or crib as soon as you wake up.

Understand your baby's sleep cycles

It may seem unbelievable to sleep-deprived parents, but most newborns sleep 16 to 17 hours each day. Infants wake up at the end of each sleep cycle—as often as every one or two hours. This is normal! After all, all that growing that newborns do requires a lot of energy, so they need to eat often.

Your baby is your number one focus—but remember to take care of your health too. When your baby naps, also nap or at least rest with your phone off. Try to go to bed right after your baby's last feeding of the day.

Help avoid extra night wakings

Yes, your baby needs to wake up and eat during the night. But there are things you can do to help them fall back asleep quickly and snooze soundly in between feedings, so you can get more sleep.

  • Nighttime feedings are not play time. Keep the lights dim and the environment boring, so that your baby learns they should sleep after the nighttime feeding.

  • Place your baby down to sleep while they are still a little bit awake. This helps them learn how to self-soothe. Gradually, they will become used to falling asleep on their own—including when they wake up in the middle of the night.

  • To help your baby self-soothe, there are a few techniques you can try. When responding to your baby's crying, start by looking at them. Next, use your voice (speaking softly). Progress slowly and allow time between each step before moving on to other techniques like light touch, massage, picking them up and rocking them. Learn more self-soothing techniques.

Accept help from others

Parenting is hard and everyone needs help sometimes. If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted, consider asking a trusted friend, family member or other seasoned parent to step in and help so that you can rest and focus on providing safe sleep for your baby. Explain the steps in your safe sleep routine and let them know that you would like everyone to follow them.

Caring for an infant is one of the most challenging things you'll ever do. Just remember that you're doing your best and it does get better.


As a new parent, it is normal to feel exhausted and overwhelmed. If you are concerned that you may have postpartum depression, talk to your doctor about your feelings. You can also reach out to your pediatrician, who can help find resources and support for you and your baby. And remember: Spending a little time taking care of yourself now will help you and your baby for a lifetime.

More information

About Dr. Moon

Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAPRachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP is a pediatrician and SIDS researcher at the University of Virginia. She is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Her research centers on SIDS and SIDS risk factors, particularly in high-risk populations, such as African Americans and infants attending child care. Within the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), she is chair of the Task Force on SIDS and associate editor for the journal Pediatrics. Dr. Moon is also the co-author of 14 Ways to Protect Your Baby from SIDS.

The Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Prevention Program is funded by Cooperative Agreement Number UF745730 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) as part of an award totaling $500,000 annually with 0% financed with non-governmental sources. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.

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American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright @ 2024)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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