Is your baby falling asleep sitting?
The first time my daughter fell asleep sitting up, my husband and I thought it was the cutest thing she’d done so far. I mouthed “get the camera” and we took a pic for posterity. (Can you say “adorable”?)
It’s not unusual to see your baby falling asleep while sitting up. That is, if it’s once in a blue moon. After all, babies’ energy levels and days vary, just like ours do.
So at some point when your little one is experimenting with baby cereal or cooing happily, she’s bound to nod off.
But if it’s becoming a frequent occurrence, it may be time to do something.
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That’s because if a baby routinely starts to fall asleep while sitting straight up, she may be developing a very negative habit that neither of you needs.
Here’s everything you need to know about why your infant falls asleep sitting; when it’s a problem; and what to do about it.
At This Stage, Sleep is Critical
…and I don’t just mean for you! (Trust me, I’ve been there with sleepless nights.)
Your infant will grow faster during her first year than at any other time in her life, besides her fetal development. And sleep is an important part of that growth.
While your baby will start out sleeping 14-17 hours a day, quality is just as important as quantity. An all-over-the-place schedule or randomly falling asleep for spurts, then startling awake, do not afford your baby the time he needs to learn and grow.
Talk to someone who’s been through it.
Schedule a baby sleep training consultation right now.
Why Babies Fall Asleep While Sitting
Your little one may be more reluctant to sleep at certain times, such when he’s having a growth spurt. During a time of such exciting activity and learning, it can be hard for your little one to “shut off” and fall asleep.
During this time, your baby may fight you on sleeping, even if he had previously been doing just fine with his sleep schedule. By the time his sleepiness overtakes his joie de vivre, he’s nodding off…including at his high chair or even while playing.
That’s normal. But there can be other times your infant falls asleep seated upright. And these could mean trouble for your infant’s much-needed sleep schedule.
As babies transition from sleeping next to their parents to sleeping alone in a crib, they may experience separation anxiety that can keep them awake. Babies can experience this at bedtime, during the night, or both.
What to Do: Your best bet, in this case, is to sleep train your baby. And no, that does not mean letting your baby cry it out! An infant who has the right sleep training knows it’s safe to fall asleep on her own.
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Discomfort and pain from medical conditions like sleep apnea, acid reflux, teething, and ear infections can disrupt your baby’s sleep.
And once you’re cuddling her, your baby may avoid lying down, which inevitably leads to them falling asleep while sitting.
What to Do: I recommend that you always respond to what might be physical pain –– no matter what. There’s a definite time and place for sleep training. (You can learn more about that here.) But physical pain isn’t that time.
If your baby wakes suddenly with a shriek and is pulling her legs up to her tummy, if her color seems off, or if anything else about her indicates a possible real illness, call the pediatrician.
In the case of your baby being sick, put sleep training on the back burner until the illness resolves.
What to Do if the Pediatrician Has Ruled Out a Serious Cause: If it’s just a bubbly tummy (colic) or a bad dream, you can help soothe your baby with these safe sleep environment recommendations proposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Follow the ABCs of sleep: Your baby should sleep Alone on their Back in a safe Crib. If your baby is sleeping sitting up, transition them safely to a firm, flat surface.
Scan the crib and remove items that may be keeping your baby from falling or staying asleep.
Put your baby in heavier pajamas to initiate a good night’s rest.
Get rid of light and noise that may cause them to wake up.
If your baby is nodding off in the middle of a very stimulating activity, she may not be getting enough quality sleep at bedtime and/or at naptime.
What to Do: Get your baby on a sleep schedule STAT! Your baby needs quality sleep. Contact me if you’re not sure where to start. I can guide you through this gentle and very effective process so your baby gets back on track.
It’s a Habit
If you can’t find any reason for your baby to be falling asleep while sitting, she may have formed a bad habit.
Of course, in her opinion, it’s not a “bad” habit at all. She has discovered how much fun learning and growing can be. So she wants more and more of it –– until finally, she nods off while seated.
What to Do: Your baby needs to learn that there is a time for fun and a time for sleep. He can best learn this by your making “sleepy time” and “awake time” very different for him.
Try these recommendations:
At night and before naptime, slow your speech to a boring drawl. (Yes, really!)
Dim the lights if possible; if it is daytime, close the blinds.
Try a white noise machine. They’re amazing for helping reduce “exciting” sounds your baby may be hearing, especially during the day at naptime.
Teach your baby to soothe himself to sleep. Once he is in the crib, that becomes a positive trigger that tells his body and mind to slow down and fall asleep.
Should You Be Concerned About Your Baby Falling Asleep Sitting?
I don’t want to frighten you –– and please know that throughout history, all babies have fallen asleep while sitting at least once in a while.
But if it’s frequent or a habit, it could become a problem. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sleeping too long in a sitting position may make it difficult for a baby to get enough oxygen. Because they can’t hold their head up for too long, the airway cannot remain open to facilitate proper breathing.
This is why most babies experience lighter sleep when they fall asleep sitting up in their crib.
Additionally, falling asleep while sitting can also lead to a flat spot on the back of your baby’s head and may also worsen reflux.
Babies fall asleep in a range of positions at different times of the day. While babies can (and will!) fall asleep sitting up for various reasons, it’s never recommended to leave your baby falling asleep sitting.
Transition your baby to a safe, flat surface as soon as possible to ensure optimal sleep quality. This will minimize the risks associated with sleeping in a sitting position and ensure that your baby wakes up well-rested and happy.
Baby Not Sleeping? Sleep, Baby, Sleep to the Rescue!
If your baby is not sleeping well contact me for one-on-one help. I’ll guide you through a gentle and reliable process so you can all get more shuteye.
Helping your baby learn to fall asleep on their own and master independent sleep is one of my specialties. I’ve focused on it for years because I went through it. Now I want to help you and your own little bundle of wakefulness, too.
Don’t waste another night’s sleep. Check out my Sleep Packages. Remember: my methods are gentle but very effective, with an almost 100% success rate.
In the meantime, have a look at what others are saying about how I helped their babies learn to sleep through the night. Sweet dreams!