Is It Safe For Babies To Sleep On Their Side? 

There have been plenty of campaigns on the safest sleep positions for babies. It is only normal that parents become apprehensive if their babies sleep in positions other than the ones recommended. Parents who have babies who love to sleep on their sides often ask the question: is it safe for babies to sleep on their side?

This article will be exploring sleep positions and the conditions when it is safe for babies to sleep on their sides. If you are a parent whose baby sleeps on their side a lot, you are not alone. Some babies do this. Keep reading on to learn more about handling the situation.


Is It Safe For Babies To Sleep On Their Side? 

We’ll explore expert insights, potential risks, and essential tips to ensure your little one’s safe and peaceful slumber. As a parent or caregiver, understanding the best sleeping positions is vital for your baby’s well-being. Let’s navigate this important journey together to promote a safe and restful sleep environment for your precious bundle of joy.


Sleeping Positions and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden infant death syndrome used to be a common cause of mortality in the past. It prompted the successful back to sleep campaign. Reputable health bodies like the American Academy of Pediatrics, has recommend the back as the best and safest position for babies to sleep in.

The campaign created awareness about sleeping positions and it reduced instances of babies suffocating to death in their sleep. The side-sleeping position is not a recommended position for sleeping as it can be dangerous for infants.

Read Also: Are Sleep Positioners Safe for Infants?


Why Can’t Babies Sleep On Their Sides?

Babies are at an increased risk of falling on their faces and suffocating when they sleep on their sides. However in certain circumstances, this seems like the most comfortable position for babies. Below are some of the risks that side sleeping exposes your baby to:

Increased SIDS Risk

According to research, side sleeping raises the chances of sudden infant death compared to sleeping on the back. This happens because babies tend to turn and roll while they are sleeping. This position may obstruct breathing till the baby suffocates. Newborns and younger infants have little control over their movements and are more likely to die from suffocation.

Uneven Pressure on Head

Sleeping on the side can create uneven pressure on the baby’s head. Babies and their body parts are very fragile in infancy. The uneven pressure on the head created by this sleep position can cause flat spots. This can impact the skull’s symmetry and may need physical therapy to correct.

 Limited Space for Movement

Movement for babies is generally inflexible. Side sleeping further restricts the baby’s ability to move in their sleep. This can create discomfort and irritability. The back sleeping position is the optimal sleep position as it let’s babies move their arms and legs freely during sleep.


When Is Side Sleeping Considered Safe?

Side sleeping is not entirely bad. In uncommon situations, healthcare providers may recommend this sleep position but it requires guidance. Situations where side sleeping may be necessary include:

Medical Conditions

Conditions like gastroesophageal reflux, where babies have issues keeping food in their belly, require side sleeping as the only safe way the baby can get good sleep. In these situations, the healthcare provider will draw out guidelines to work with to guarantee the safety of the baby.

Supervised Tummy Time

Tummy time helps babies strengthen their neck and upper body muscles. This makes it an invaluable activity necessary for the babies’ development. Short intervals of tummy time when the baby is awake can be done under thorough supervision but this should not become the regular sleep position for infants.

Creating a Safe Sleep Environment

It is one thing for a baby to sleep in a safe position and another to sleep in a safe environment. The second is outside their control, so parents and caregivers must ensure that the sleep environment for babies is totally safe. Here are a few things that you can do:

  •  Provide a Firm Mattress and Fitted Sheet

The baby’s mattress needs to be firm and flat to provide a comfortable feel. This should fit well into their crib or bassinet. Objects like blankets, pillows, and bumper pad must be kept away to avoid possible suffocation.

  •  Remove Soft Objects

Asides keeping objects like pillows and blankets away, all stuffed animals and toys with the ability to cause suffocation should be kept away during sleep.

  •  Room Sharing

Room sharing is a highly recommended practice. When babies sleep on their own beds but in the same a room as their parents, it is easier to check on them often. Keeping them on their own beds also reduces the risks of sudden infant death syndrome.

  • Avoid Overheating

The room temperature should be conducive and their sleep wear should be light or thick depending on the weather. Their clothing materials should not be too bogus or fluffy as it can pose risks of suffocation.

  •  Avoid Smoke Exposure

Smoke is completely unhealthy for adults and children. It is of greater risk to infants and one of the biggest causes of sudden infant death syndrome.

Read Also: How Long After Painting a Room Is It Safe For Baby to Sleep?


At What Age Can a Baby Sleep On Their Side?

The back sleeping position is the best and safest position for infants to sleep in. This has been popularized by safe sleep for babies campaigns and recommendations from health organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics. This position is the safest as it poses the least risk. Yet, as babies grow older, the chances of suffocating side sleep reduce, even though the risk lingers.

Due to this, parents often wonder at what age their babies earn the “safety right” to sleep on their sides. This is common with parents as the sleep preference for babies change with time and the side sleeping style may be preferred. Above all, it is essential to stick to the laid down health guidelines as the babies’ health and safety must be prioritized over their sleep preferences or convenience.

The additional clause to the guideline of avoiding side sleeping is tied to age. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against placing babies on their sides until they can move from their stomach to their backs by themselves and completely unaided. For Babies, this skill is developed at about 4 to 6 months of age. At this age, babies have good neck and upper body muscle strength making repositioning easy and reducing suffocation risks.

However, it is important to remember that, alertness while awake is incomparable to alertness while asleep. While babies may be able to reposition swiftly while they are awake, such agility may be difficult when they are deep in sleep. Hence, there should be no rush to the indulgence of this sleep preference. It is ideal to wait till your baby is old and strong enough.

In addition, always ensure that the sleep environment is safe and comfortable for back sleeping as well as side sleeping when they are of age. The chosen sleep style should also be maintained during naps and rest times as this ensures predictability and helps babies stick for safe sleep habits.


Which Position Is Safest For a Baby To Sleep In?

For infants, the best and the safest positions to sleep in is the back position. This position is also called the “back-to-sleep position” and is recommended by highly rated health and pediatric organizations like the World Health Organization, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Prior to the “Back to Sleep” position campaign which aimed at spreading awareness on the dangers of certain sleep positions for babies, the rates at which babies died from sudden infant death cases were very high. As parents and caregivers learnt more about baby’s safety in their sleep and opted for this safe position, records of sudden infant deaths dropped drastically.

The major reason why other sleep positions are unsafe is the suffocation and sudden death risk it poses.

Read Also: Can Babies Sleep In Their Own Room From Birth?


Why Back Sleeping Is Safe

The most important reason why the “back to sleep” sleep position is safe or considered the safest is the reduced risk of suffocation. Sleeping on the back ensures the airways are not obstructed creating room for clear breathing. Also, chances of re-inhaling carbon dioxide are eliminated in this position. This is not the case with side sleeping or tummy sleeping.

Other reasons why this position is the safest sleep position include:

Temperature Regulation

Sleeping on the backs makes it easier for the baby’s body to regulate their body temperature during sleep. This reduces the risk of overheating, another factor associated with sudden infant death syndrome.

Natural Reflux Protection

Natural Reflux is common in babies. When they sleep on their backs as opposed to sleeping on their sides or stomachs, chances up choking on their spit-up or vomit is very unlikely since the oesohagus sits freely above the stomach.

Developmental Benefits

Positional plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome can occur in babies that have too much pressure directed to their heads. The back sleeping position helps reduce this pressure to a great deal hence preventing the development of this condition.


Conclusion on: Is It Safe For Babies To Sleep On Their Side? 

Side sleeping is totally unsafe for infants below six months of age. When your baby is above six months, back sleeping is still the best position but the risk involved at this age is lesser. Infants should only sleep on their sides where recommended in the cases of medical situations but they must be under watch as they sleep.