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Baby Sleep: Expert Q & A

Should you wake your baby for feedings? How many naps does baby need? Our expert answers some of the most common baby sleep questions.

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Generally, after four months or so you’ll find that the baby probably won’t need to eat as much at night, so if they're waking up and crying and falling asleep as soon as they get the breast or bottle you’ll know they’re not hungry, but if they’re waking and ravenously finishing the breast or bottle they still need to be fed at night. A rule of thumb: If it’s been one or two hours since you put them to bed they probably don’t need to be fed, but if it’s been more than three or four hours they probably are hungry.

Is bringing my baby to bed with me -- co-sleeping – safe? 

Co-sleeping isn’t recommended because of what we know about sleep safety. There’s more of a risk of smothering, SIDS, and of falls off the adult bed when there’s bedsharing.

If you’re breastfeeding often and you want the baby close, one option is to use a bedside co-sleeper. It looks like a crib with a missing side, and you can put it right next to the adult bed, and raise it up to the bed’s height, but an adult can’t accidentally roll over on the baby. If you’re feeding baby often, you can also consider putting a bassinet, cradle, or crib nearby.

What’s the safest way to put my baby to bed?

Always put your baby on his back to sleep, never on his side or tummy. There’s a higher risk of SIDS if they’re on their tummy or their side (they can roll onto their stomach if they’re lying on their side). And be sure that childcare providers, grandparents, and so on, know to put the baby on his back because there’s also a higher risk of SIDS if a baby is usually put to sleep on his back but suddenly gets put to sleep on his tummy.

Finally, be sure to give your baby a lot of tummy time when he’s awake. Tummy time helps promote physical development -- generally babies don’t roll or crawl as soon if they don’t get tummy time, for example. And if you’re worried about SIDS, you want them to have a stronger head and neck so they can [lift] their face up if it gets covered. Also, babies can actually end up with lopsided heads, or bald spots from rubbing the back of their head on the mattress, if they spend too much time on their back. These aren’t dangerous, but if babies spend more time on their tummy it’ll relieve some of the friction and pressure.

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Reviewed on January 15, 2010

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