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Is it safe to put a bag of rice on a baby’s tummy to help them sleep?

Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP

Answer

Is it safe to put a bag of rice on a baby’s tummy to help them sleep?

​Every parent wants their baby to be able to sleep well. A quick internet search can turn up dozens of tips aimed at helping to calm infants who have trouble falling asleep in their bassinet or crib.

Some websites advise putting a bag or sock filled with rice on a baby's chest before placing them down to sleep. The idea is to create the sort of pressure a baby might feel held over a parent's shoulder in hopes of relieving gas pain or making them feel more secure.

Why it's not a good idea

Unfortunately, leaving a bag of rice on a sleeping baby's tummy or chest is not safe. Even if it's tucked inside a swaddling blanket, it could raise the risk of suffocation.

To keep babies safe while they sleep, place them on their backs for every sleep and also keep bedding such as blankets, pillows, bumper pads, and other soft objects out of their sleep area. Also keep in mind that babies generally do not start to have regular sleep cycles until about 6 months of age, since they can't last very long between feedings​.  This can make for a lot of sleep-deprived nights for parents. 

Safer ways to help your baby fall asleep

As tough as this stage may feel, it is normal! But there are some safe ways to try to help your baby start to develop good sleep habits. For example:

  1. At bedtime, put your baby in the crib or bassinet when they're getting drowsy but are still awake. This can help babies learn to fall asleep on their own. Holding or rocking them until they are fully asleep can make it harder for them to fall back asleep if they wake up during the night.

  2. When your baby wakes up during the night to eat or for a diaper change, stay as calm and quiet as possible. This will help your baby understand that while daytime is playtime, nighttime is for sleeping.

  3. Wait a few minutes before responding when your baby wakes up during the night. If they continue to fuss, check on them. But first see if they may fall back asleep.

Remember

Talk with your pediatrician if you have any questions about helping your baby sleep.

More Information

Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP

​Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP is a Professor of Pediatrics and the Director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. In addition, he serves as Director of the Oregon Center for Children and Youth with Special Healthcare Needs. After graduating from Harvard Medical School and completing his pediatric training at Seattle Children's Hospital, Dr. Hoffman directed the pediatric residency program and served as assistant dean for graduate medical education at the University of New Mexico before moving to Oregon. He is a nationally recognized educator and expert in child passenger safety, and leader in the field of community health and advocacy training for pediatric residents. Within the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Hoffman is a member of the Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, as well as Associate Director of the Community Pediatrics Training Initiative. Follow him on Twitter @DrBenHoffman. ​

Last Updated
3/5/2021
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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