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The Safest Newborn Sleep Position

The Safest Newborn Sleep Position

During those first few months at home, your baby’s sleep will probably become a precious entity. While it may not always be easily attained, when it is, you’ll know you’ve won a ticket to that elusive place called Dreamland.

However, it’s important that your baby’s not only comfortable while they’re sleeping, but also safe.

In this guide, we’ll explore the safest sleeping position for your baby, explain which positions can pose safety concerns, and suggest some tips to ensure your baby is sleeping safely and soundly so that you both can enjoy those trips to Dreamland.

What’s the Best Newborn Sleep Position?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the safest way for babies to sleep is lying on their backs.1 Although your mother or grandmother may have been instructed to place their newborns on their tummies, studies conducted in recent years have shown that babies who sleep on their backs have a significantly lower chance of suffering from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and other fatal sleeping accidents.2

The AAP also recommends that you continue to place your baby to sleep on their back until they’re at least one year old, even if they’ve learned to roll over onto their stomach.

If your baby does roll onto their tummy in their sleep, it’s safe to leave them in that prone position as long as they know how to roll back over.

Why Can’t Babies Sleep on Their Side or Stomach?

Although you may learn that your baby has a preferred sleeping position, it’s important to understand why putting your baby to sleep on their back or on a supine position is the safest option.

Essentially, it comes down to the fact that newborns are wiggly little creatures. If you put your baby to sleep on their side, they may squirm their way onto their tummy—and this is a big no-no.

A baby who falls asleep on their stomach or on a prone sleep position without being able to roll over on their own are at a higher risk of:

  • SIDS
  • Accidental suffocation

SIDS

SIDS refers to the unexplainable death of a child under the age of one during sleep. Although the exact cause of SIDS is not clear, research suggests that it may have something to do with the part of a baby’s brain that controls breathing and their inability to wake while sleeping.3

In other words, if a baby falls asleep on their stomach and isn’t taking in enough oxygen in that position, they’re unable to rouse themselves from sleep and move their head into a position that allows for better airflow.

Fortunately, when a baby sleeps on their back, they decrease their chances of succumbing to SIDS by 60%.4

Accidental Suffocation

Babies under the age of three months are often still learning to turn their heads from one side to the other when practicing tummy time. When in a tired state, it can become even more challenging for them to turn their heads while laying on their stomachs. So, how do you keep your sleeping baby safe?

If a baby falls asleep on their side and moves onto their stomach, or if they fall asleep on their stomach, they may be unable to turn their head away from the crib mattress. This can make it difficult for them to breathe and can potentially result in accidental suffocation.

Can a Newborn Sleep With Their Head to the Side?

What if your newborn doesn’t like sleeping on their back? Can you help them get more comfortable by letting them sleep on their back with their head to the side?

Although this option may provide you both with fewer tears and more sleep, it can have unwanted side-effects, like plagiocephaly—also known as flat head syndrome.

When your baby is born, their skull is soft and therefore more malleable when pressure is applied to it. This can be an issue if they’re consistently sleeping with their head turned to one side. If your baby begins to favor one side over the other, they have a higher likelihood of developing flat spots on that side of their head.

You can look for the following indicators of flat head syndrome during bath time when the baby’s head is wet and the signs are easier to recognize:5

  • A head that appears slightly slanted in one area
  • A flat spot on the side of the head they typically sleep on
  • Uneven ears when looking directly in front of the baby’s face
  • A missing patch of hair in one area due to sleeping in the same spot

Fortunately, flat spots are not typically dangerous to a baby’s health. However, if you do notice flat spots, consider correcting them by practicing tummy time, holding your baby more frequently, and encouraging sleep on the other side of the baby’s head (for instance, by placing a mirror on that side of the crib).

Tips and Tricks to Improve Baby Sleep Safety

Whether you’re in your first trimester or you’re reading with your little one in your arms, here are some tips you can consider using to improve your baby’s sleep safety:

#1 Provide Firm Bedding

When a baby sleeps on a plush surface, like a soft mattress or a thick comforter, their airway can become blocked by the excess fabric and material if they turn their head to the side or if they roll onto their stomach.

Instead, provide your baby with a firm surface to sleep on, preferably their bassinet or crib mattress.

#2 Empty Their Sleep Area

Regardless of where they’re sleeping—crib or bassinet—the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that you keep your baby’s sleep area free of anything that could become a suffocation hazard or impair their ability to breathe. This includes:

  • Loose blankets that your baby may become tangled in during the night
  • Crib bumpers
  • Pillows
  • Stuffed animals or other soft items

Although these items can be excellent for playtime or supervised snuggles, they’re not safe for naps and bedtime. In fact, when your baby goes to sleep, their sleep area should only include a fitted sheet made of soft, breathable fabric, like GOTS certified organic cotton to ensure crib safety.

#3 Sleep in the Same Room

For the first six months and up to a year, the AAP recommends babies sleep in the same room as their parents. Of course, this amount varies by family and what they are most comfortable with. You can do this by placing their bassinet near your bed so that you can easily monitor them while they’re sleeping.

As your baby outgrows their bassinet, you might want to put their crib in your room so you can continue to keep a watchful eye. However, you can also move them to the baby nursery crib and use a baby monitor to check on them while they adjust to their new sleep environment.

#4 Know When to Use a Swaddle

Newborns often feel safe and snug in a swaddle, as it replicates some of the comforts of being in mom’s womb. It also controls the startle reflex, so they’re less likely to surprise themselves awake.

However, once your baby learns to roll over, it’s important to find safer sleep gear, such as a wearable sleeping sack. A wearable sleep bag provides babies with the same snugness of a swaddle while also allowing them the use of their arms so that they can safely roll over without becoming stuck on their stomachs. So, be sure to know the functions of a sleep sack vs swaddle to know when is the best time to transition them.

#5 Avoid Sleep Positioners

Although sleep positioners were created as a sleep aid to help babies snooze on their backs and sides, the FDA has asked parents not to use them anymore because they could be an additional source of suffocation for newborns.6

Rather than use a sleep positioner, simply place your baby on their back to sleep and keep them close to you so that you can check on them while they’re sleeping.

This doesn’t mean you can’t “sleep when the baby sleeps,” as the old saying goes. It just means you should peek into the bassinet or crib from time to time to make sure they’re still safely on their backs.

#6 Control Their Temperature

To help your baby maintain an ideal body temperature during sleep, you can choose sleepwear that:

  • Promotes breathability on warmer nights
  • Provides warmth on colder nights

But how do you know what will keep your baby cool enough or warm enough?

Most of the time, you can dress your baby in the same number of layers you’re wearing to bed, plus an added layer (since you’re not tucking them in with a sheet or blanket).

For Your Baby Sleep Needs and More, Trust Monica + Andy

Every moment with your little one is precious, especially during those first few months. Andeven though you might not be getting as much sleep as you’re used to, the slumbers you do get may come easier knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to ensure your newborn is in the best baby sleeping position.

Looking for answers to other baby sleep questions? Just ask Monica + Andy.

We offer online guides, as well as virtual classes and events that can help guide you through your parenting journey. Not to mention, our wide selection of baby products are all ethically-made with baby-safe, organic materials, like GOTS certified organic cotton.

So whether you’re searching for fitted crib sheets, cloud-soft sleepwear, or more baby sleep tips, Monica + Andy can help.



Sources:

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Tips For Keeping Infants Safe During Sleep From the American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2020/tips-for-keeping-infants-safe-during-sleep-from-the-american-academy-of-pediatrics
  2. Safe To Sleep. Progress in Reducing SIDS. https://safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov/activities/SIDS/progress
  3. Mayo Clinic. Sudden Infant Death Syndrom (SIDS). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20352800
  4. Geisinger. Decrease the Risk of SIDS — Put Your Infant ‘Back to Sleep’. https://www.geisinger.org/health-and-wellness/wellness-articles/2017/10/16/15/39/decrease-the-risk-of-sids-put-your-infant-back-to-sleep
  5. Healthline. Understanding Flat Head Syndrome (Plagiocephaly) in Babies. https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/flat-head-baby
  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Do Not Use Infant Sleep Positioners Due to the Risk of Suffocation. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/do-not-use-infant-sleep-positioners-due-risk-suffocation
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