Safe Sleep

Help protect your baby while they sleep by creating a safe sleeping environment.

What is a safe sleep environment?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Placing your baby on their back on a firm surface, such as in a crib
  • Having your baby sleep in the same room with you but on a separate surface for the first 6–12 months of life
  • Making sure there are no blankets, pillows, toys, or other items in your baby’s sleeping area
  • Offering a pacifier, without any strings, stuffies, or attachments to them, at naptime and bedtime
See the Safe Sleep: Learn, Plan, Provide materials

What about bedsharing?

Bedsharing isn’t recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but it is ultimately up to the family to decide what’s best for them. If you’re thinking of bedsharing, make sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Safe sleep environments are firm, flat surfaces.
    • No sofas, armchairs, or pillows.
  • Safe sleep is substance-free.
    • This includes alcohol, drugs, and medicines that increase drowsiness.
  • Safe sleep is supine.
    • Baby is always on their back.
  • Safe sleep is smokeless.
    • This includes being away from people, clothing, and objects exposed to smoke.
  • Safe sleep is spacious.
    • Beds should be away from walls or other furniture to ensure baby doesn’t get wedged between the objects.

Download a copy of this list.

What about lying down while breastfeeding?

If you lie down in bed with a baby to breastfeed, use the cuddle curl. This position protects the baby from unexpected movement. Here’s how it works:

  • The baby is lying on their back while the mom is on her side facing the baby.
  • The baby’s head is aligned with the mom’s breast.
  • The mom’s legs are curled so they’re below the baby to prevent baby from sliding down.
  • Whichever of the mom’s arms is under her is curled above and around the baby to prevent baby from moving up.

What else can I do to keep baby safe at night?

Other ways you can help keep baby healthy and reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are:

  • Breastfeed, if you can, as it is linked to safe sleep for both baby and mom.
  • If you don’t breastfeed, make sure baby gets skin-to-skin contact in other ways, like laying baby across your bare chest while you’re watching TV or reading. Skin-to-skin contact is a great way for all caregivers to bond with baby.
  • Make sure your baby receives all recommended vaccines.
  • Tummy time is important to help babies develop strength so they can eventually roll over. When your baby is awake and supervised, lay them on their tummy for short periods while offering encouragement and toys.

How much should my baby sleep?

Remember, all babies are different. While it’s nice to have guidelines, your baby’s sleep will develop in its own way.

Age Average total sleep hours Typical sleep patterns Recommendations
0–3 months 17 No pattern The first 6 to 8 weeks are the hardest. Hang in there!
By 3 months 15-17 5-6 naps per day The pattern of sleep and wake times emerge.
3–6 months 15 3–4 naps a day Longer stretches of sleep begin to happen at night. Try to create a sleeping schedule.
6–9 months 14–15 3 naps, with the longest at lunchtime Create a bedtime routine to help baby become a good sleeper.
By 9 months 14 3 hours of napping Babies should adapt to the schedule well and sleep at regular times.
9–12 months 14 2 naps Avoid late afternoon sleep.
12+ months 13 1 nap Have baby nap for about 2.5 hours.

Most babies are ready to go to bed for the night at around 7 p.m.

How do I know when baby needs a nap?

Signs your baby is tired can include:

  • Acting fussy
  • Rubbing their ears
  • Crying or red eyes
  • Arching or jerking
  • Staring blankly

Sleeping tips from experts

  • Keeping your baby up later doesn’t help them sleep longer. Try sticking with a regular bedtime.
  • Create a simple nighttime routine to help your baby form regular sleep habits. Practices such as bath time or reading can help cue baby that it is time to sleep.

Tips for the first year

  • Take all the naps you can by trying to sleep when your baby sleeps.
  • Avoid the urge to compare your baby with others. All babies are different.
  • Challenge yourself to ask for help. People want to help but often don’t know what you need. Try asking visitors to bring a meal or do a chore.
  • Make time to laugh and exercise. You can include baby in your walks—fresh air is good for both of you.
  • Take a break to spend some time alone, even if it’s brief.
  • Talk to your health care provider if you feel like your moods have changed. Depression and anxiety are very common during and after pregnancy. Help is available.


A conversation about traditional safe sleep and cradle boards with Salisha Old Bull of the Salish and Crow tribes.