The best sleeping position for your baby

Newborn babies sleep up to 16 hours a day, and sleep is an important factor in the development and well-being of the baby. Ensuring your little one sleeps well without any disturbance and in the correct position is of utmost importance. A baby’s sleep position is significant in not just determining whether they’ve had a good night’s sleep, but also helpful in avoiding the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). It comprises all sudden deaths in infants, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome SIDS.

Improper sleeping positions such as sleeping on the tummy sometimes causes suffocation among infants, which is why understanding the importance of a baby’s sleeping position is so crucial.

Which is the best sleeping position for babies?

Experts suggest that sleeping on the back, also known as the supine position, is an ideal sleeping position for infants. Always place your baby on his/her back when you put your little one to bed, during the day or at night. To form this habit into a routine, do this from day one. Avoid placing your baby on its tummy while being nursed to sleep. The supine position is known to have reduced the risk of SIDS as it keeps the airways free for breathing, thus making it the best sleeping position for infants.

If your baby rolls on his/her stomach in their sleep, ensure you place them on their backs. You can let them have some tummy time when they’re awake, and with supervision at all times. Once your baby learns to roll over from their back to their belly, and again roll on to their back, they will form their own sleeping positions, and this happens usually after a year.

However, it is not recommended to constantly keep the baby on their back as it increases the risk of the baby forming a flat head or spine. It’s not something to worry about as it gets back to normal after a year and doesn’t necessarily require medical intervention. However, some movement is required which can be done in the form of placing your baby on its tummy when they’re awake and always under supervision. This helps in the development of upper body strength. You could also try cutting down the time spent in carriers and/or car seats.

Why does sleeping on tummy increase risk of SIDS?

The sleeping on tummy position for babies is widely known to be unsafe for a number of reasons. The foremost reason being it puts pressure on the jaws and makes it difficult for the baby to breathe. This position also decreases the space between the baby’s face and the surface considerably, resulting in the baby breathing the same recycled air which is low in oxygen. Using a soft mattress and then keeping the baby on its tummy to sleep increases the risk of suffocation as the baby’s face delves into the mattress/pillow.

Sleeping on the side position too is considered unsafe because the baby eventually ends up rolling on its tummy which, as we’ve already established, is an unsafe sleeping position for babies.

Guidelines for baby to sleep safely

  • Avoid soft mattresses, pillows, comforters and quilts for infants. As much as you may feel tempted to make your baby as comfortable as possible, you’re actually doing more harm than good. A firm mattress with neat clean sheets is recommended.

  • Don’t overcrowd the crib with too many stuffed toys, quits etc. Try as much as possible to keep the baby’s crib neat without extra padding or comforter under the baby. There are chances of baby getting strangled in loose bedding or some soft toy covering its face.

  • Make sure the temperature of the room that your baby sleeps in, is not too hot nor too cold. Extreme temperatures that baby is not accustomed to can disturb their sleep.

  • Co-sleeping is strongly opposed by experts. Sharing the bed with baby or having a sibling or even a twin sleeping the same bed as the infant is not recommended. There is the fear of laying your arm on the baby in your sleep or rolling over.

Whether your baby is full term or preterm, ensuring your baby’s sleeping position is correct is imperative to reduce the risk of SIDS in babies under 12 months, unless otherwise suggested by the pediatrician.

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