Safe Newborn Sleep Positions

Safe Newborn Sleep Positions

Safe Newborn Sleep Positions

Since sleep is an essential need for your little one during the first months of her life, you must know how to make it safe and comfortable for her.

Adults typically sleep on their back, side, or stomach, but the same doesn’t apply to babies. Actually, some positions that are comfortable for you may be dangerous to your little one.

So, let’s take a closer look at safe newborn sleep positions as well as some tips on how to organize the best sleeping space for a baby.

The Main Concerns About Newborn’s Sleep

Both pediatricians and new parents worldwide are concerned about sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID). The most common causes of SUID are the following:

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS);
  • strangulation or asphyxiation in the crib;
  • unknown causes.

In 2017, SUID claimed 3,600 infant’s lives and today remains the most common reason for deaths in infancy around the world.

Another major concern is overheating. Babies cannot regulate their temperature accurately yet. Worrying about this, some parents put many clothes on their newborn or place a heater near the cot to make sure their little one won’t get cold.

But here’s the thing:

Doing so may be fatal.

A study published in the Lancet journal analyzed 34 sudden infant deaths and showed that more than half of the babies were overheated or sweating when found dead.

What you should also know is that babies lose heat through their head and hands, so these parts of the body shouldn’t be muffled up. Overall, if the room has a comfortable temperature and is appropriately aerated, there’s no need to wrap your little one up like a burrito.

Pros and Cons of Each Sleep Position

Now, let’s outline the main pros and cons of each sleep position and determine how they apply to newborns.

Back Sleeping

Back sleeping is undoubtedly the best position for newborns. It eliminates the chances of choking during sleep because the baby’s airways remain open.

If your little one is healthy and not premature born, you should always put her on the back—for sleeping, napping, and just resting.

However, the supine sleep position does have a drawback. If you put your baby in the same position all the time, they might develop positional plagiocephaly—or, simply put, their head might become misshapen.

This condition occurs because the bones that form the infant’s skull are very flexible and movable. This helps the head pass through the birth canal. As the baby grows, the bones grow together and form a rigid skull. But if you consistently place the baby in the same sleep position, the bones may deform and create protrusions.

Severe forms of positional plagiocephaly require surgery. But this condition can be prevented by following these recommendations:

  • change the orientation of the baby in the crib;
  • limit the time spent in a car seat or a carrier;
  • increase tummy time;
  • occasionally put the baby to rest on his side instead of the back (under your supervision, of course).

Stomach Sleeping

Stomach sleeping is the most controversial sleep position. Some healthcare specialists go strictly against it, while others may even recommend tummy sleeping for your baby.

The truth is, this position can be beneficial if your baby has some medical condition that makes it uncomfortable for him to sleep on his back.

Also, placing your baby to sleep on his stomach can work for reducing bloating and colic pain. Thus, he can calm down and fall asleep this way.

Now, some theories go against stomach sleeping:

  • your baby may choke if the mattress is very soft;
  • your baby may breathe in the germs living in the mattress;
  • your baby may rebreathe the air with carbon dioxide and suffocate.

Bottom line?

You can surely try short tummy sleeping sessions under your supervision.

But overall, it’s better to use tummy time for practicing head lifting and rolling skills.

Side Sleeping

Side sleeping isn’t recommended for babies at all. If you put your little one on his side before he learns how to roll over, he may end up on the stomach. Which puts him at risk of suffocation.

As mentioned above, lying on the side may be used for play and active sessions, but under your supervision only.

Tips on How to Make Baby’s Sleep Safer

Now, here are a few general guidelines on how to make your baby’s sleep safer, no matter if he sleeps on his back or stomach:

  • Choose a firmer mattress. Firm crib mattresses don’t allow for sinkage and keep the infant’s spine aligned as they sleep. It’s important to choose natural materials and check for certification tags to make sure the baby won’t be exposed to harmful chemicals or irritating smells.
  • Don’t use too many layers. This applies to both blankets and clothes. Keep your crib design simple: the more layers, the higher the chances that your baby will strangle himself. Also, do not cover the baby’s head, as this part of the body plays a key role in thermoregulation.
  • Try pacifiers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, pacifiers may help reduce SIDS in small babies. But if your baby doesn’t like pacifiers, you shouldn’t force it, of course.
  • Use technology. A cyber-nanny can help you keep an eye on your baby without having to guard the cot 24/7.
  • Share the room, not the bed. Place the crib closer to the bed but avoid co-sleeping with your little one. Yes, this might seem comfortable for some parents—and co-sleeping actually has its advocates—but it’s also pretty dangerous. When you enter the deep sleep phase or if you move a lot during sleep, you might accidentally smother your tot. That’s why it’s better to establish a rule of separate sleeping from the very first day.



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