Why can't babies sleep on their stomach? or, can they sleep on their side? If so, is it safe? 4 to 6 months is a new milestone for a baby; this is where he/she tries new sleeping styles. Yes, it is an excellent achievement, but always a nerve-wracking experience for parents.
When you are a new parent, you always get bits of advice from your grandma, mom, or even your friends. One says side-sleeping is great, another tummy is right while others say back is safe, but which one is right? And does it even matter?
So, to help you understand this, I will share the risks associated with side sleeping, and more importantly, the appropriate time to let your little one sleep on their side.
What are the side-sleeping Risks?
1. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome SIDS and Side-Sleeping
SIDS is always the primary worry for every parent. This is because your baby can suddenly die if they turn onto their tummy while sleeping. Therefore, it is always advisable that you keep your newborn baby sleeping on their back to avoid the risk of SIDS.
This problem is usually more prevalent in supposedly healthy babies under the age of one. However, SIDS can be caused by other things apart from side-sleeping such as mom smoking, parents that abuse drugs or drink alcohol, etc.
So you might be asking how does tummy and side sleeping relate. The fact is, it is easier for a baby to turn from side sleeping to tummy sleeping than from back to tummy. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only risk to worry about when newborn babies sleep on their side.
2. Plagiocephaly (Flatheads)
This condition characterized by flattening of one side of the head due to baby sleeping on that side for long. This condition is also known as flat head syndrome.
Newborn babies’ skulls are always very malleable and flexible. Because of this, one side of the head can flatten due to the constant pressure of one-side sleeping. If this condition is severe, a doctor might recommend applying head therapy to correct it. Otherwise, there is nothing to worry about since this condition can fade away over a short period.
There is a lot of misconceptions among people that babies can chock easily while on their back than the side. But that isn’t entirely true. This is because babies are equipped with better reflexes that can help them cough out or swallow their spit out while on their backs.
But when sleeping on their side, the risk of choking increases. This is due to twisting or torsion of the trachea. This, therefore, can lead to difficulty in breathing or swallowing.
Torticollis or the wry neck is a condition in which a neck is painfully tilted or twisted.
Just like a baby’s skull being weak and soft, the side of the neck is also the weakest part of the neck for a newborn baby. Therefore, this condition can be exhibited twice within your baby’s first 6 months. This is because of changes in the environment (womb to bed), sleeping style as well as weak neck muscles.
This condition can quickly fade out if it there is no abnormal muscle and bone developments. But if there is, then a physical therapist can be of assistance.
The perfect time for side sleeping
Determining the appropriate time for your baby to sleep on their side safely is an essential factor when it comes to the safety of your little one. Therefore, it is recommended that your child should sleep on his back until 12 months are over. After which his neck muscles and overall breathing mechanism will be reasonably developed.
But what if the baby rolls onto his side while sleeping? –When and if this happens (around 6 months), you should turn your baby back to the natural position. But in case he rolls back onto the side, then you can let him sleep but keep an eye on him.