1. Being a mom
  2. Raising a baby
  3. Baby sleep

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Why Do Newborn Sleeping Positions Matter?

Experts agree the safest sleeping position for newborns is on their back. It reduces their chances for sudden infant death syndrome, the nation’s fourth leading cause of infant death. Join Flo as we take a closer look at newborn sleeping positions.

The safest sleeping position for newborns

You’ve probably spent some time researching breastfeeding positions for your baby, but what about newborn sleeping positions? Studies show that babies sleeping on their back are not only safer, but healthier. They’ve exhibited lower rates of fever, nasal congestion, and infection (particularly of the ear) versus tummy sleepers. And more importantly, they have a decreased chance of developing SIDS, which is most likely to occur during the first 6 months.

Also known as crib death, SIDS is associated with defects in the region of the brain that controls breathing and sleep arousal. Side sleeping and tummy sleeping can partially obstruct your baby’s airway, making it harder for them to breathe.

Back sleeping and parental concerns

Have you been struggling to find the right newborn sleeping position? Perhaps it’s difficult to put your little one to sleep on their back due to fussiness. Or you may be concerned about the dangers of placing a sick baby in this position in the event of vomiting. (Medical professionals point out, however, that babies usually turn their head to the side before vomiting.)

Another common objection to back sleeping is its tendency to create flat head syndrome, or positional plagiocephaly. Fortunately, this condition is treatable, and even preventable, with extra tummy time and sleep repositioning.

Ultimately, the advantages of back sleeping far outweigh the disadvantages, and there’s a broad consensus that it’s the safest newborn sleeping position.

Why tummy sleeping isn’t the best newborn sleeping position 

Roughly 80 percent of sudden infant deaths are attributed to SIDS. And as previously mentioned, babies who sleep on their stomach are at greater risk for developing it.

There are several reasons why this newborn sleeping position is believed to be unsafe. It could put added pressure on the jaw, potentially restricting your baby’s airway. Also, their head placement causes them to continually breathe in recycled (rather than fresh) air. This eventually leads to a buildup of carbon dioxide and a lack of oxygen. Back sleeping effectively addresses all of these issues.

Why side sleeping isn’t the best newborn sleeping position

Although side sleeping is slightly safer than tummy sleeping, it still carries many of the same risks. Furthermore, your infant could potentially roll from their side onto their belly at any time. Overall, the best position to sleep in is on their back.

Tips on safe sleeping for newborns

When it comes to newborn sleeping positions, there are numerous ways to keep your child both safe and well-rested. Below, Flo reviews the experts’ top do's and don’ts.

Choose a firm surface

As they become increasingly mobile (around the 6-month mark), your infant may start rolling onto their stomach after being laid down on their back. This is why a firm mattress or other surface is recommended. Soft mattresses tend to mold to the shape of your baby’s head and face, creating breathing obstructions. 

Eliminate loose bedding and soft objects

Untucked linens, as well as stuffed animals and toys, all pose potential sleeping hazards. To prevent suffocation, use a tightly fitted sheet on the mattress and skip the pillow and blanket altogether (especially for newborns).

Monitor the temperature

Try not to overdress your baby for bed. Periodically check their temperature to see if they’re warm or even feverish. If they’re sweating or feel hot to the touch, remove any extra layers of clothing or adjust your thermostat. The ideal room temperature for them to sleep in is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Avoid co-sleeping

Do not sleep in the same bed as your newborn. It’s wiser to simply share a room with your child so you’re able to tend to them as needed, and lower their risk for SIDS.

However, if you do not sleep well or fail to get enough sleep when they’re in the same room, consider buying a baby monitor.

Offer a pacifier

A bedtime pacifier for your newborn is also recommended for the prevention of SIDS. There are two important things to note when it comes to pacifier usage. First, ensure that you’ve already established their breastfeeding routine as it may interfere with the process. Secondly, if your baby rejects the pacifier, there’s no need to force it on them.

Use technology

Thermometers and sleep position monitors allow you to track and optimize your little one’s sleep each night. Even when room-sharing isn’t an option, you can guarantee they’re in the safest sleeping position for newborns.

Get the proper vaccinations

Infants with up-to-date vaccinations are half as likely to develop SIDS. That’s why it’s crucial to get them the right vaccinations at the right time.

Don’t use cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol

The risk for SIDS is far greater among children living in a house with smokers and whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. Furthermore, recreational use of alcohol and illicit drugs is extremely harmful before and after the birth of your baby.

Lastly, certain theories suggest that breastfeeding may offer protection against many diseases and conditions, including SIDS.

When it comes to your newborn’s sleeping positions, do your research and take the proper precautions. Always put them to sleep on their back and follow the safety tips outlined above.

What to Expect the First Year, 3rd edition, Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel.







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