Parents have slept with their babies since the beginning of time. In fact, one of the most delicious feelings a woman can experience is having her sweet baby sleep at her breast. In fact, it is so comforting that tired moms often find themselves falling asleep while nursing, too! And, unfortunately, that’s where it becomes risky.

Is it Dangerous to Fall Asleep While Breastfeeding?

A study of more than 2,000 breastfeeding moms revealed that 72% of those who nursed in bed fell sound asleep with their babies. And 44% fell asleep while nursing on a sofa or recliner. That’s very worrisome because increasing numbers of babies suffocate when sleeping in their parents’ bed . . . and there is even a greater risk when sleeping on a sofa or chair! 

If you insist on bed sharing there are ways to reduce your baby’s risk. But I would still caution you not to bed share for the first 9 to 12 months. Research shows that most new parents are sleep deprived, and when we are exhausted we have the same poor judgment and inattention as someone who’s drunk!

Video studies show that bed-sharing babies spend two-thirds of the night in the riskier side position and have their mouths covered with a sheet or blanket for more than an hour each night. When you’re bone weary, you might not realize you’re accidentally obstructing your baby’s face with a blanket or your arm. 

Why Do I Get Sleepy While Breastfeeding?

Along with the comforting feeling of nursing your baby, breastfeeding also releases Oxytocin in your brain. The release of oxytocin can cause a relaxed and sleepy feeling.

How Do I Stop Falling Asleep While Breastfeeding?

You’re probably exhausted from all the demands of early motherhood, and on top of that, your baby may be nursing at odd hours of the night. When you feel too drowsy to keep your eyes open while breastfeeding, there are a few tricks you can use to stay awake. Here are a few that we recommend:

  • Get out of bed. The act of getting out of bed and walking into another room can be enough to wake you up for an extended period of time. Try making a habit of moving from place to place every 20-minutes depending on how hired you are.
  • Edit photos. I’m sure you’re snapping hundreds of photos per day but simply don’t ever have the time to edit them for Instagram and Facebook. Try taking the time to scroll through your pics and editing them to stay awake.
  • Catch up on TV. If watching TV is something that keeps you engaged and awake, then try binging a Netflix or Amazon Prime show that you’ve had on your watchlist for a long period of time. 
  • Drink water and snack. If a middle-of-the-night feeding has you feeling tired, then try drinking a tall glass of water to keep you cool and awake. Also, a small plate of snacks are a great way to keep your metabolism going. 
  • Play games. Put your brain to work and stay engaged by playing some smartphone games with your friends. It’s a great way to stay awake and even catch up with friends and family while you nurse.

Still Worried About Falling Asleep With Your Baby?

Make sure to keep your baby in a separate sleeping space from your own. Keep your baby right next to your bed—in a co-sleeper, smart sleeper (like SNOO), or bassinet— but don’t sleep together on a sofa or bring her into your bed.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.