Best Sleeping Style for your Baby: Should a Baby Sleep on the Side?

baby sleeping on the side or stomach is a huge risk for sudden infant death syndrome

In this world, bundles of joy come with their own worries. Being a first time parent can be the most stressing period in your life. If the baby gulps, you are worried. When the baby cries, you are two times worried. When the baby sneezes, it becomes a big deal that even your neighbor will know. However during the resting period for the baby, where worries should be minimal, first time parents still get worked up on which style should the baby sleep on. The question is always, is the baby supposed to sleep on the side, or on the back or on the belly?

Best sleeping position for the baby

According to Dr. Andrew Adesman and the American Academy of pediatrics babies should be put to sleep on their back to minimize the risk of losing your baby through sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs). The society has a myth that advocates that babies should be made to sleep on the side but this poses a major risk. This is because the baby might roll and sleep on their stomach increasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

The myth of making the baby to sleep on their side emanated from the campaign dubbed ‘back to sleep (BTS)’. This campaign which run from the late 1980s to around 1991 in developed countries to ensure most people know the effectiveness of babies sleeping on the side or supine position to reduce sudden infant death syndrome. This campaign however was revised to read that babies should sleep on the back because it is the best position to reduce the deaths.

Suffocation is the major cause of infant deaths according to Florida department of Health in Collier County. This is because once the child sleeps in a prone position like on the stomach, the baby cannot roll itself to a position where suffocation is less likely to occur. The risk is highest in children less than 1 year but peaks at between 1 and 4 months of age.

When a baby can sleep on the side or stomach

The baby can be left to sleep on the stomach once it is able to roll itself from sleeping on the back to sleeping on the stomach. This stage is mostly at more than 1 year and thus any baby less than one year should always be made to sleep on the back. This should take place during naps and during sleeping at night and unlike most worries for babies at this age, they never get tired of sleeping on one position. When a baby rolls from the back to the belly or tummy on his own he should be left to sleep at that position since he is deemed strong enough to roll back to prevent suffocation.

How to make the baby sleep well and safely

  • The baby should always sleep on the back.

As discussed above the baby especially under 1 year old should never sleep on the side or stomach. This way one is able to avoid suffocation and other causes of sudden infant death syndrome. This should continue till the baby is able to roll from the back to any other sleeping position.

  • The sleeping surface should be firm.

The sleeping surface whether a bed, crib, bassinet or any other sleeping surface should be firm to ensure the baby sleeps well and safely. The crib should be inspected to ensure it is safe to use and the manufacturer has not recalled it for being unsafe to sleep on. The baby sleeping space should not have any objects or broken parts. In addition, the mattress should be covered with a fitted sheet and between them there should be no duvets, blankets or pillows. For safety purposes babies less than one year should sleep in cribs devoid of soft objects like stuffed toys, pillows, comforters, bumper pads or any loose bedding. These objects can trap the baby or strangulate him or worse of suffocate him. The baby can only sleep with these things once it is safe to do so where this according to research is not known.

The baby’s crib should be in the same room at an arm’s length to the parents or guardians bed but according to studies the baby is not very safe when sleeping in the same bed as the parents. Also it is not safe to put the baby to sleep on sofas, cushions, water beds or chairs because they do not meet the safety standards for the baby to sleep.

  • Avoid overheating of the room or getting the baby to be too hot

There are optimal temperatures for people including babies to sleep. It is recommended that the baby should not be too overdressed for sleep. In normal circumstances, whatever the parents wears should be the same as the baby. In cold environments however, one layer of clothing can be added to what the parent is wearing to keep the baby warm. To check if the baby is too hot, check for sweat or if the chest feels hot. In those instances reduce the baby’s clothing. It should be noted that parents should avoid clothes that can cover the heads and faces of infants while sleeping.

  • Is a pacifier good during nap time or bedtime?

Yes it is. A pacifier minimized the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by up to 90 percent. The pacifier which can be used from 3 to 4 weeks after birth reduces the risk of suffocation. At this time the baby can breastfeed well thus can be able to suckle the pacifier. The pacifier can fall once the baby is asleep or even some babies do not like a pacifier at all. In those instances it is good to let the baby sleep without it. Pacifiers also help in reducing SIDs in babies who sleep on soft beddings or on their stomachs. If a baby sleeps on the stomach without a pacifier he is at risk of SIDs by up to two and half times. How does the pacifier work then? The pacifier protection is not well known but is helps in having the bulky handle which sticks out. This handle ensures that the baby cannot sleep with the face down on a soft surface.

  • Smoking near your baby should be disallowed.

Smoking is associated with many problems in both adults and babies. Smoking has been associated with cancers, lung diseases, heart diseases, brain disorders and other disorders of the body systems. Since the baby is growing, smoking can cause respiratory problems at the young age and serious problems later. For smokers it is recommended that it should cease once one knows she is pregnant. It is also recommended that there should be no smoking in the car where the baby is riding or in a house where the baby is residing.

How long should a baby sleep?

Babies sleep cycles are according to their age. The length of sleeping times are not always the same in all babies but lie within an acceptable range. Newborns sleep most of their time in short segments but as the baby grows, the amount of sleep also reduces gradually. The baby however will sleep longer during the night as the age increases. Newborns sleep almost for 16 hours each day with the length during the day and night being almost equal. The sleep however lasts for one to two hours interrupted by periods of being awake.

The amount of sleep in babies reduce gradually to 15 hours at three months, 14 hours in 6 months and 13 hours in 2 years. After 9 months the baby sleeps for 11 hours at night having reduced gradually from 8 hours at birth. Whether it is during the day or during the night, the following shows that the baby is ready to sleep: rubbing his eyes, yawning while he is fully fed, when the baby is fussing or even looking away.

Can the baby have infant sleep problems?

Separation anxiety is common at about 6 months of age. This is where the baby awakens at night crying after having started to sleep regularly though out the night. The babies at this stage do not understand that the parents are not going for good. The following are seen in babies having separation anxiety:

  • Sleeping and then waking up during the night while crying when a regular sleeping pattern has been established. This is a concern to many parents and always leads to anxiety in parents too.
  • Refusing to let the parents leave their room when they are sleeping. This always leads to crying once the parent leaves the room when they are sleeping.
  • Sometimes the baby may refuse to sleep without the presence of the parent nearby.

The conditions above may also be because the baby is overstimulated or too tired. However, some problems might be due to a disease and therefore it is recommended that a physician be consulted if the baby cannot stay asleep or has a difficulty in falling asleep if that was not the case before.

In conclusion, there are several studies which advocate for the baby to sleep on the back. This way the baby is able to breathe normally. This however should not be a bother if a baby can roll himself to another sleeping position. To reduce instances of sudden infant death syndrome the baby should sleep on the back with a pacifier on the mouth. If the baby will not sleep as indicated above, it is recommended that one should consult a doctor.

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