There is nothing more innocent than a sleeping baby, and moms and dads will always remember the moments their sweet baby fell asleep nestled under their chin.

While there are many risks posed to newborns and young children when it comes to sleep, there is one hazard that some parents might not know about when it comes to the tender moments their child falls asleep on them — falling asleep with them.

As Fatherly points out, this danger is often photographed and shared on social, and it’s particularly popular among dads. The demands of fatherhood and a baby’s needs having worn both parties out, the image depicts father and baby resting together usually with the tot sleeping across dad’s chest or torso.

Experts caution that the image is much more dangerous than it looks as a significant number of babies who pass away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) were sleeping on couches, chairs, or near dad.

As previously reported by Dearly, according to the Mayo Clinic, SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby under 1 year old, usually during sleep. Babies between 2 months old and 4 months old are most at risk. The exact cause of sudden death is unknown.

Fatherly reports that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a baby falling asleep on a couch or a sofa increases the likelihood for SIDS 49 to 67-fold.

And it’s not just where a baby is sleeping, but how a baby is sleeping that poses additional harm.

According to Safe to Sleep, which is a partnership with the National Institutes of Health, babies who fall asleep on their stomachs increase their risk of SIDS by 1.7 to 12.9 times.

The campaign website states:

The single most effective action that parents and caregivers can take to lower a baby’s risk of SIDS is to place the baby to sleep on his or her back for naps and at night.

Shontavia Jackson Johnson, a memetic theorist and director of the Intellectual Property Law Center at Drake University, explained to Fatherly that the popularity of taking photos that show dad sleeping with their baby snuggled on top is the result of the appeal of babies and “the novelty” of capturing a special moment of fatherhood. She told the publication:

“Images of babies make us smile. […] They represent the best of humanity.”


“Images of dads being nurturing are not common. Seeing those types of images warms our hearts. That leads to sharing. […] It’s all the stuff we love.”

Johnson explained that the best way to combat the prevalence of social media images displaying dangerous sleeping positions is to withhold “liking” it:

“To the extent those types of images are no longer socially acceptable, the social media market will dictate what happens.”

According to Charlie’s Kids Foundation, co-sleeping and stomach sleeping pose the leading risk factors for SIDS.

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Charlie’s Kids Foundation was formed by Sam and Maura Hanke after their three-week-old, Charlie, died from SIDS. Sam, a pediatric cardiologist, had fallen asleep on the couch with baby Charlie on his chest.

As the website writes:

Sam woke up, Charlie didn’t.

The Hankes urge against co-sleeping, warning parents of the susceptibility to life-threatening risk even during “innocent” napping or when falling asleep by accident:

“So, when trying to calm a newborn at 2 a.m., or sneaking a few extra zzz’s during the day, think of Charlie. Maura and Sam want you to know that your baby is safest on his or her back alone in their crib…”

The foundation also advocates against the sharing of social media images that capture this dangerous habit:

What we now know, that may not be realized when “liking” these cute photos is, this sleepy snuggle is actually dangerous for our babies.

So for all the moms and dads snuggling their sleeping babies and thinking of doing the same, keep the moment a precious one to remember — put baby down first — alone.

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If You Let an Infant Fall Asleep on Your Chest, You’ll Wake Up, and They Might Not

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