Where Babies Sleep
Around the world, and throughout human history, babies have slept close to their mothers, during the day and during the night. For the first few months of life she provides warmth, safety, comfort and food — and until the advent of advanced technology babies simply could not survive without their mothers.
Nowadays we are able to keep babies alive, warm, fed, and safe, without their mothers’ bodies. Cribs were constructed, formula was devised, incubators were invented, and over the past century products became central in infant care. How we incorporate babies into our 21st century world, and how we might adapt today’s lifestyles to accommodate babies’ needs, are not things we often think about — but perhaps we should. Where we expect, encourage, and enable babies to sleep is just one of these issues.
What a baby biologically ‘expects’, and what today’s environments provide, can often be far apart.
Finding the right path through all the potential risks and hazards for babies in today’s environment can seem like picking your way through a minefield.
Even when you have thought ahead and planned carefully to avoid the known risks, how do you cope with a baby who suddenly won’t or can’t sleep in the proper place, in the approved way, at the appropriate time?
How can you make the other options as safe as possible, and prevent yourself from doing something dangerous? What are the least risky next options?
The answers to these questions are not the same for all families. In the following sections we consider where babies sleep, why certain advice is offered to parents, who it applies to, and what things you should think about when circumstances change. More detailed information on the research behind these topics can be found in the Health Practitioners section of this site.