To reduce the risk of SIDS, babies should be placed on their backs to sleep, unless otherwise advised by your baby’s doctor. However, what if your baby rolls to his side to sleep? Is it okay for newborns to be sleeping on their side?
Yes, it is okay for newborns to be sleeping on their side provided they are rolling that way on their own and can roll from back to tummy and tummy to back. Some parents allow their babies to sleep on their sides even if they aren’t rolling yet, but it isn’t considered quite as safe as back sleeping.
My son didn’t like to sleep on his back, so we did allow him to sleep slightly on his side without anything propping him up to stay that way, but we never put him on his tummy to sleep. Once he started rolling onto his tummy himself, he did sleep MUCH better, but safety trumped a good night’s sleep until then.
How Can You Make Back Sleeping More Comfortable?
It may not be a coincidence that babies started having more trouble sleeping once we started putting them on their backs to sleep. Many babies will sleep best on their tummies or side, but the benefit of reducing the risk of SIDS is worth it. So, how can we make it more comfortable for them to sleep on their backs?
First, consider swaddling your baby as that may make it more comfortable to sleep on their backs. Consider a plush swaddling blanket like the Halo Plush Dot, which has 3 different ways you can position your baby’s hands. This is especially good for babies who like their hands on their faces or who like to suck on their fingers or hands. The Love To Dream also allows you to “swaddle up” your baby’s hands near his face, which will allow him to self-soothe, too, and many families with whom we’ve worked really love this one.
Then, when your baby gets a bit older (usually around 3-5 months old when they start rolling), you will need to stop swaddling your baby and consider transitioning to a sleep sack. Halo also makes a plush sleep sack which we’ve heard good things about.
Another way to make back sleeping more comfortable could be to set the crib on a slight incline, so while your baby is technically on her back, she isn’t necessarily FLAT on her back. Angled sleep spaces are very helpful for babies with reflux, too. If you are afraid of your baby rolling down the bed, you could consider a Baby Stay Asleep or a Swanling crib sheet. If your baby is younger than 6 months old and not yet sitting up, you could also consider a Rock-N-Play.
You might be wondering if a sleep positioner is a way to go, but unfortunately, most sleep positioners are considered unsafe when used in a crib.
Can babies Sleeping On Their Sides Be Safe?
Most babies will naturally assume the position that allows them to breathe most comfortably, so many babies will roll to their sides or onto their tummies when they are able to do so freely and intentionally.
If your baby is swaddled, it’s NOT safe to place her on her side considering she could roll onto her tummy and face without being able to roll back. Without a way to make sure she stays on her side, it’s best to place her swaddled on her back, NOT her side.
If your baby is not swaddled, laying her on her side with her bottom arm stretched out would make it more difficult for her to accidentally roll onto her front, but it’s still not as safe as her back.
In the end, none of us wants regrets, so we highly recommend you always err on the side of caution and place your baby on his or her back to sleep. If you have medical or other reasons for allowing your baby to sleep on her side, give her doctor a call to see what he/she thinks. Never hesitate to do this!