Study: Baby Sleeps Best on Mom’s Chest

Before they are born, a baby spends nine months in his mother’s womb and therefore instinctively recognizes that he is most safe close to his mom. Researchers are now pointing out that it is best for newborns to sleep with their mothers as separation from mothers leads to anxiety and stress in the infants.

Contradicting from the earlier idea of previous researches that have said that co-sleeping could lead to high risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) scientists at the University of Cape Town have found that sleeping apart from their mothers could place a large physiological stress-load on infants.

For the small study researchers measured the heart rate of 16 two day old infants first when they slept on their mother’s chest and later when they slept on their own. The team measured the heart rate variability – in which the irregularity between beats is measured and is a non-invasive way of testing stress.

Dr Nils Bergman, co-author to the study noted that ideally infants showed sleep cycles where period of active sleep and quite sleep continued for an hour at a time. But they found that with infants who were separated the sleep cycle was absent.

“In our study, sleep cycling in separated babies was mostly absent, and in six of 16 babies that did show some quiet sleep when separated, it was shorter and shallower,” Bergman said.

He said that in the early days of a baby’s life, it is advisable that mother’s separation should be avoided as much as possible and although it is a controversial subject, sleeping on mom’s chest is really the best solution.

This new research again sparks the debate going on against and in favor of co-sleeping.

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics co-sleeping leads to high risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and in 2007 it was the third leading cause of infant deaths in US. Dr Rachel Moon of the AAP believes that skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child is important but their needs to be a balance between bonding and ensuring that the baby is not at risk.

The doctor also points out that while ‘quiet’ sleep is important, Dr. Moon notes that babies should be able to wake up if they need to – particularly if they aren’t getting enough oxygen. This, she says, ‘may not be as easy if the child is in deep sleep and obstructed in some way’.

Both doctors however point out that it is the parents who need to be taught by caregivers the right technique of co-sleeping so that the baby is not stressed and also not at any risk. They also need to know and recognize any signs of distress in their child.

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About the author


Atula is a writer, traveler and a nature-lover. She is also mom to a boy who seems to have inherited all her creative genes. When Atula is not busy making up stories with her son, she writes for numerous magazines, websites and blogs. She is also working on her site on endangered species called


  • What is the best way to have baby sleep on mom’s chest? If I’m flat on my back my baby’s head slips forward towards my neck and then she gets on uncomfortable.

    Should I be on a wedge pillow? How can I make both of us comfortable?

    I love this article but I would really like to see exactly how those moms and babies slept in the study.

  • Find your most comfortable spot, and yes use a pillow or two, your baby should sit right on your breasts, I’ve done this with all my children, it also helps to have a pillow on the side of you as well, sleep when your baby sleeps you both will be ready for the day ahead. Enjoy this time with your baby as much as possible.

  • I got 6 kids and recently just had my 6th and there mother sleep on her chest for the 1st year mybe the 1st 9-12 months we never had any problems .plus it seems all my kids loved it ..right now my tv is kinda loud but both of them knocked out i dont think nothibg is wrong with it .i think the baby can tell there mothers sent and heart beat .babies are smart and use there senses very well when they are born .i delivered one of my kids at home and that child is very attached to me she shows me love allday everyday .without even asking and she is 4

  • Hi Atula,

    Still within this theme, a tip I used with my daughter – Giovanna – was to sleep on a mattress on the floor. This avoided the risk of crashes due to falls and made possible a more intense contact between me and my daughter.


    Ana Paula

  • My baby boy started sleeping on my chest at 6 weeks he is now 8 weeks, he also suffers from reflux so he cant rest laying on his back and gets distressed! When on my chest he is content and sleeps blissfully for hours. I was worried about this at first but now i know its fine. I have many pillows to help my comfort and as im a light sleeper im always checking to make sure hes ok. I get enough sleep to run on which is far better than no sleep

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