The Best Baby Sleeping Positions, 2024

by | May 29, 2024 | Improving sleep, Newborn, Sleep wear, Top tips

When it comes to ensuring the safety and comfort of your newborn during sleep, understanding different baby sleeping positions is crucial. Parents often ask me about the best sleeping positions for their babies, especially when their newborn starts to show signs of rolling to one side. 

Let’s take a look at the best baby sleeping positions, focusing on safe sleep practices, and addressing some common concerns that crop up such as reflux and wind (gas).

What Are the Best Positions for Baby Sleep?

Sleeping safely with your baby is a top priority for parents and is central to all the advice I give. Here’s a little reminder of the basics for baby sleeping positions. The NHS and the Lullaby Trust state the safest place for a baby to sleep is on their back, on a separate firm sleep surface, such as a cot or Moses basket. No soft bedding, pillows, or toys. 

Why? Well, since the ‘back to sleep’ campaign started, this position has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

What Are Safe Baby Sleeping Positions? A Recap.

Ensuring your baby sleeps safely is paramount. The following guidelines are essential for creating a safe sleep environment:

1. Always place your baby on their back to sleep for naps and nighttime. This position is the safest and reduces the risk of SIDS.

2. Use a firm mattress covered with a fitted sheet. Avoid soft surfaces like couches, armchairs, or adult beds.

3. Keep the cot free of soft objects, toys, pillows, and loose bedding. These items pose a suffocation risk.

4. Room share: Share your room with your baby for at least the first 6 months to reduce the risk of SIDS. Side sleepers are great for keeping your baby in their own sleep space but close enough for easy night feeds.

5. Dress your baby in light sleep clothing and keep the room at a comfortable temperature. Overheating can increase the risk of SIDS.

Newborn Rolling to Side (Newborn Scrunch or Newborn Curl)

Many parents quite rightly panic if they notice their newborn rolling to their side during sleep. This position, often referred to as the “newborn scrunch” or “newborn curl,” might look like the baby is starting to learn to roll. However, this is typically a natural reflex rather than an intentional movement. Newborns have a tendency to curl up into a foetal position, which can cause them to roll to their side.

Despite this reflex, it’s important to always place your baby on their back to sleep. If you notice your baby has rolled to their side, gently roll them back. Consistently placing your baby on their back helps establish safe sleep habits and reduces the risk of SIDS.

newborn rolling

When Babies Learn to Roll: ‘Getting Stuck’

This is a pretty big milestone to reach! As babies grow and develop their motor skills, they begin to experiment with rolling. During this phase, it is very common for babies to roll to their side at nighttime and get “stuck.” This can be frustrating for them, crying out and concerning/tiring for parents. 

Apart from some gentle reassurance that this phase will pass when they finally master the skill, here’s what you can do to help:

1. Continue to offer supervised tummy time in the day. This helps develop those muscles which are essential for rolling both ways.

2. Keep an eye on your baby when they are trying to roll. If they get stuck on their side, try to  help them complete the roll. Use the opportunity for teaching the skill. If they’re really stuck then assist them by rolling them back.

3. Don’t be tempted by sleep positioners or wedges to keep your baby in a specific position. They are not safe for sleep. 

Summary

Ensuring a safe sleeping environment for your baby is paramount. Their sleeping position is really important. Always prioritise placing your baby on their back to sleep, use a firm sleep surface, and avoid soft bedding. Special considerations for reflux and wind can be managed with slight adjustments, but always under the guidance of a health professional who will be able to offer personalised advice for your baby. Safe sleep practices not only protect your baby but also provide peace of mind for parents.

Question and Answer

Q. When Is It Safe for a Baby to Sleep on Their Front or Side?

A. It is generally not safe for babies to sleep on their front or side until they have reached certain developmental milestones. As we know, all babies develop at different rates so here’s what you need to consider:

1. Continue placing your baby on their back to sleep for all naps and nighttime sleep until they are at least one year old. This position is the safest and significantly reduces the risk of SIDS.

2. Once your baby can roll over from back to front and front to back confidently on their own, it is usually safe for them to sleep in the position they choose. At this stage, they have developed the necessary motor skills to adjust their position during sleep, which helps prevent suffocation. However, still place them on their back when you put them down.

3. Even when your baby starts rolling both ways confidently, continue to ensure their sleep environment is safe. Use a firm mattress, avoid soft bedding, and keep the cot free of toys and pillows.

Sleep Consultant Packages, Gemma Coe, Sleep Consultant Kent

Q. My Baby has Reflux, What’s the Best Sleeping Position?

A. Babies with reflux often experience discomfort when lying flat on their back. The management of reflux can be complicated and should be discussed with your child’s health professional before making any adjustments to their sleeping position.

They may suggest:

1. A slight incline: Elevating the head of the cot slightly. The incline is gentle and the baby remains on their back. Remember a firm, flat surface is the general recommendation, so this should only be changed with medical advice.

2. A period of being held upright before being packed back down. Holding your baby upright for 20-30 minutes after feeding may help reduce reflux symptoms and make it more comfortable when placed on their back for sleep after a feed. 

Q. My Baby Has Wind/Gas Pains, What’s the Best Sleeping Position?

A. This is common during the newborn stages and also for babies starting to wean. A build up of wind/gas can cause discomfort and disrupt a baby’s sleep. Here are some positions to help alleviate wind:

1. Continue with a back sleeping position. While on their back, gently moving their legs in a bicycling motion can help release wind.

2. While babies should not sleep on their stomachs, supervised tummy time while they are awake can help relieve wind before nap or bedtime. This position helps strengthen their muscles and can move those bubbles of wind through the body.

3. Brief periods of side lying while the baby is awake and supervised can also help relieve wind. Always ensure they return to their back for sleep.

sleeping position for baby, best baby sleeping position

Q. What’s the best sleeping position for a baby with a stuffy nose or cold?

A. Babies with a stuffy nose or cold can have difficulty sleeping due to nasal congestion. While it’s important to maintain safe sleep practices, there are a few strategies you can use to help your baby sleep more comfortably when they aren’t feeling 100%.

Continue to place your baby on their back for sleep. This remains the safest sleeping position and helps reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However we can make some modifications before they’re placed down on their backs.

Using a cool-mist humidifier in the baby’s room can help keep the air moist and alleviate congestion, making it easier for your baby to breathe while sleeping.

Using saline nasal drops before sleep can help clear your baby’s nasal passages. The beautifully termed ‘SnotSucker’ is also a really helpful tool. Gentle suction will help remove a build up of mucus.

Please only change the incline of a baby’s cot when you have consulted their health professional.

Q. What’s the best sleeping position for a baby who is teething?

A. Teething can be a challenging time for both babies and parents, as it often disrupts sleep due to discomfort. Continue to place your baby on their back for sleep. This remains the safest baby sleeping position and should be maintained to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Focus on providing comfort to your baby before sleep. This can include gently massaging their gums with a clean finger, offering a teething ring/teething toys, or using a cool muslin for them to chew on.

If your baby is in significant discomfort, you may want to consider appropriate pain relief such as calpol. Always follow the dosage instructions provided.

Maintain a consistent bedtime routine to help your baby feel secure and relaxed. This might include a warm bath, gentle rocking, or a calming lullaby. I’ve also got more advice in my illness post here.

safe sleep, SIDS, baby sleep

Get in touch!

If you are experiencing difficulties with sleep – whether a regression or something else, please get in touch, follow me on instagram, or read my other blogs.

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Hi, I’m Gemma, your sleep consultant

I am a certified baby and child sleep specialist who works with families all over the world.

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