Baby Sleeping On Side Vs. Back: Which Sleep Position Is Best?

baby sleeping on side

Parenthood arrives, and suddenly you’re contemplating things you never had to think about before. One such topic is your baby’s sleep position. If you’re wondering what’s best — your baby sleeping on their side or their back — you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’ll discuss what’s safest for your little one when it comes to putting them down for naps and nighttime.

We’ll start by talking about the three possible sleep positions for your baby and what’s safest. Then, you’ll read about a few other safe sleep recommendations to allow sweet dreams for your baby and peace of mind for you.

Baby Sleep Positions

Your sweet, snoozing little one is adorable no matter how they fall asleep. But it’s important to remember that when it comes to safety, not all sleep positions are the same.

You may have heard that “back is best” or be familiar with the “back to sleep” campaign. It’s true — putting your baby to sleep on their back is the safest option. But with that said, the sleep positions that are OK for your little one depend on their age and development.

Let us explain by reviewing the three sleep positions.

Baby Sleeping On Back

 baby sleeping on back

We’ve already mentioned the fact of the matter: the safest sleep position for babies is on their back. This was first recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1992 and has been the recommended sleep position since.

It’s the safest option until your baby learns how to roll over without help and is the position that you should always put them in when you lay them down. It’s a good idea to communicate this to your baby’s other caregivers — like aunts, uncles, grandparents, and babysitters — too.

Although your baby sleeping on their back is the safest position, it’s not safe to use a positioner, wedge, or pillows to attempt to keep your baby on their back while they sleep. These are unsafe and pose a risk for entrapment or suffocation.

Baby Sleeping On Side

 baby sleeping on side

Lots of baby pictures feature little angel babies curled up on their side, sleeping serenely. However, putting your baby on their side to sleep (whether for naps or nighttime) is not the safest option.

When your baby is sleeping on their side, it’s too easy for them to roll over onto their stomach. And newborns haven’t yet developed the muscles or skills to roll over again onto their back.

What if your little one spits up at night? Many parents may feel that there’s less of a chance that their baby will choke on spit-up if they’re sleeping on their side. This, however, is simply not true.

Due to the positioning of the esophagus and the trachea (the windpipe), sleeping on their back is still the safest position for your baby.

All of that said, once your baby gets the hang of rolling over by themselves with no help from you, it’s OK for them to sleep on their side if they have put themselves in that position.

In other words, you should always put your baby to sleep on their back, but if they roll over in the middle of the night, there’s no need to go into their nursery to turn them over at that point.

Baby Sleeping On Stomach

 baby sleeping on side of face

What about your baby sleeping on their stomach? Forty or 50 years ago, this was the recommended sleep position. But that changed in 1992 when, as we mentioned, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised that babies sleep on their back.

If you place your little one on their back and they roll onto their stomach in their sleep, you can let them keep snoozing if they have exhibited the four signs that they are ready.

Also, the best way to keep them safe is to keep the crib free of any other objects and follow safe sleep practices (which we will go over at the end of this article), especially when they start rolling over.

What If My Baby Develops A Flat Head?

All this talk about sleep positions may have you wondering what to do if your baby develops a flat spot on their head.

The bottom line is this: Changing your baby’s sleep position and putting them down on their side or stomach is not a safe way to address head flattening. A little bit of flattening due to sleeping in the same position is normal and usually goes away with time.

One thing you can do if you are worried about your baby developing a flat head is change the crib position or the direction that your baby faces in the crib. This way, when they turn their head to look at something, it won’t always be to the same side.

It’s also essential that your baby has plenty of tummy time when they’re awake, gets to cuddle in your arms, and doesn’t spend too much time in their car seat.

What Is The “Newborn Curl?”

There’s one more thing we’d like to mention about baby sleep positions. You might have heard of something called the “newborn curl.” This is the position that newborns are used to from being in mommy’s tummy. Basically, it’s the fetal position.

This muscle tone develops later on in pregnancy, which is why premature babies might not put themselves in the fetal position as much as their full-term counterparts.

While there’s nothing wrong with your baby snoozing in this position with their arms and legs tucked in, it needs to be on their back.

Safe Sleep Recommendations

We’ve covered one of the most important baby sleep safety recommendations: putting your baby to sleep on their back. So, to wrap up, we’d like to go over a few other tips that go hand in hand with that.

Use A Firm Crib Mattress

 Baby sleeping on back

As cozy as a soft mattress might seem to you, it’s not the safest option for your little one. Always use a firm crib mattress that fits snugly in the crib. But firm doesn’t have to mean uncomfortable!

Our Newton Baby Crib Mattress provides just the right firmness for babies while also offering comfort for toddlers. And there’s no need to flip the mattress as your baby grows.

This mattress is also 100% breathable. Our innovative Breathe-Thru Technology allows your baby to breathe right through the mattress, reducing the risk of suffocation if they roll over to sleep on their side or stomach. They’ll rest easy, and you can, too.

Plus, our mattress is GREENGUARD Gold Certified, meaning it’s independently tested and certified for low chemical emissions, exceeding the highest industry emissions safety standards to help improve indoor air quality.

Keep The Crib Clear

Another important safe sleep recommendation is to keep your baby’s crib free of anything other than the mattress, a fitted sheet, and, of course, your baby! Sleeping with toys, pillows, blankets, crib bumpers, and the like poses an unnecessary safety risk.

So, outfit your baby’s bed with a crib sheet, like our Organic Cotton Sheets, and skip the rest. Designed to pair perfectly with our crib mattress, our 100% breathable, supremely soft organic cotton muslin sheets feature a snug fit for any crib mattress.

Choose from cute patterns as well as solid colors, and you’re sure to find one that goes perfectly with your nursery design.

Opt For A Swaddle Instead Of A Blanket

 If you can’t use a blanket to cover your baby while they sleep, how are they supposed to stay warm during the night? Simply wrap them in a swaddle or sleep sack.

Swaddling your newborn can help them feel safe and secure in addition to keeping them warm. If you’re not sure how to wrap your baby in a swaddle, you can read our article here.

(Note: It’s important to stop swaddling by the time your baby is able to roll over, and opt for a sleep sack instead.)

At Newton, our Organic Swaddle Blankets are made of organic cotton muslin and provide breathable comfort, helping to regulate temperature and reduce the risk of overheating.

Share Your Room

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you share your room — but not your bed — with your baby for at least the first six months of their life.

This simply means putting their bassinet or mini crib in your room so that your baby is nearby and you have easy access to them during the night.

Baby Sleeping On Side: A Sleep Safety No-No

 Mom putting baby to sleep

Keeping your baby safe while they’re awake as well as while they’re snoozing is a top priority for you as a parent! Your baby sleeping on their side is a sleep safety no-no. Whether it’s for naps or nighttime, put your baby down on their back. But if they roll over themselves, let them be.

Other safe sleep recommendations include using a firm crib mattress (like our Newton Baby Crib Mattress), keeping the crib clear of anything other than a fitted sheet, and sharing your room for the first six months of your baby’s life.

By following these tips and guidelines, you can rest easy knowing that your baby is as safe as possible while they snooze!

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