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It's Not a Bad Habit if You Let Your Newborn Sleep in Your Arms, Say Experts
PHOTO BY @runzelkorn/iStock
  • A very exciting time for any first-time parent anticipating the arrival of his child is buying the baby's needs, from the tiniest mittens and booties to appliances you didn't know you needed (baby bouncer? UV sterilizer?).

    One of the first things you'll probably purchase (and no doubt one of the pricier ones in the list) is a baby crib, your baby's very own space, where you could spend hours watching him as he takes a satisfying nap.

    Or not.

    The truth is, from the time you bring your newborn home up until he's a few months old, he'll probably spend more time napping in your arms than in this carefully-selected crib. And while people will advise you, "Wag sanayin si baby sa karga," author and child sleep consultant Alexis Dubief says there's no need to feel guilty about letting your baby sleep in your arms and become a "human mattress," as she calls it.

    "Nobody puts a baby in a crib alone, especially awake, from day one,” Dubief writes in his book Precious Little Sleep. “This is simply an unrealistic expectation for most new parents. Newborns need a lot of soothing, and being held by a parent or loved one is very soothing.”

    Satya Narisety, M.D., an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Rutgers University, agrees. "It’s always okay to hold an infant under four months old to put them to sleep the way they need it,” she says. 

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    It's true, isn't it? The closeness of your baby and being able to marvel at this wonderful creation, that wonderful newborn scent, and the fact that you can successfully get him to sleep (which, in turn, makes you feel like you're doing a good job as a parent) all make rocking baby in your arms so irresistible. So, go ahead and follow your heart.


    However, do take note, as Dubief gives this encouragement with a crucial safety warning: If you let your baby sleep in your arms, you need to be wide awake because falling asleep beside a baby is "enormously unsafe."

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends in its updated guidelines for safe sleep that for the first six months of life up to one year ideally, infants should share "the same bedroom as their parents – but on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet" to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

    Moreover, babies, either alone or sleeping with another person, should never be placed on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair — surfaces which are "extremely hazardous" according to Rachel Moon, M.D., FAAP, lead author of the latest report on SIDS. 

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    Transitioning to the crib

    The other caveat about letting your baby sleep in your arms is he probably won't be sleeping as soundly anywhere else if he is so used to your embrace. Unless you want to rock your baby to sleep until he's a toddler, it is important to start sleep training as soon as it is possible.

    Newborns can't be sleep-trained, says sleep coach Gabrielle Weil, but the fourth to seventh months is a good range window to begin doing so. "I highly encourage having a long-term sleep plan in place for the 4th month of your baby’s life," she says, because "what you teach at this stage — both good and bad — are what form the foundations of your baby’s sleep habits for life."

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    So, new mom, go ahead and savor that wonderful feeling of rocking your baby to sleep. But do remember that you will need to introduce healthier sleeping habits soon, both for your sake and your baby's.  

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