Comprehensive Guide: Infant Sleeping Positions

Every new parent will have questions concerning infant sleeping positions. Sudden unexpected infant death or better known as SIDS is very common in babies under the age of 1 year old. According to the CDC, there are nearly 3,500-4,000 SIDS-related deaths each year in the United States alone.

While there are many ways to protect your infant from this terrible death, there are many reported cases that have been ruled “unknown cause”. With this being said, parents need to become educated on, when it is safe to let their baby sleep on her tummy. 

Under the Age of 4 Months

The statistics revolving around SIDS display the most common age is between 1-4 months. This is basically when infants are at the highest risk, which is why the sleeping position question is so very important. Parents need to take the time to become educated on this condition, before the birth of their infant.

Remember, all infants under the age of 1 year old will be at risk of SIDS death. This is why you need to follow the guidelines for safe sleeping positions throughout this phase of the child’s life.

Back Sleeping

Medical researchers continue to study the causes surrounding this mysterious crib death. Studies show that the baby’s safest sleeping position is supine or lying flat on their back.

Other research shows that infants, who sleep on their back are at a much lower risk of getting stuffy nasal passages, otitis media (middle ear infections), and fevers. This position is also best because it gives the child an opportunity to discover their surroundings while being more mobile.

Side Sleeping

While many parents seem to think that the side sleeping position is more suitable for their child, it genuinely is not. It is not unusual for a small infant to regurgitate their milk, while they are lying in their crib. This can be very disturbing for any parent, but even more so for a new parent.

Again, the infant’s best sleeping position is the back, because of the way the trachea (windpipe) is positioned in the upper body. The trachea lies directly on top of the esophagus, so all regurgitated content will exit the esophagus, instead of pooling around the trachea opening.

Also, when the infant is sleeping on their side, they could potentially roll over onto their tummy. Of course, if you are monitoring the child, while he is sleeping in this position, he should be perfectly safe, but only with full supervision.

Tummy Sleeping

Researchers have also completed comprehensive SIDS studies with children between the ages of 4-6 months of age. By this age, your baby will be able to roll over on his tummy, while sleeping. Many parents will be concerned about this happening, so they will continuously monitor their child’s sleeping position throughout the entire night.

This is genuinely not necessary, according to the research studies. It is perfectly normal for a child, within this age group to roll over onto their tummy and parents should not wake up routinely to turn them back over.

What is important is the beginning sleep time position. You should always place your infant on his back, but make sure that the bedding is should be designed with steel springs that will support the baby’s weight, without changing shape. Never place blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, or bumper pads in the infant’s crib, since these items can increase the risks of SIDS.

When is Tummy Time Important?

Parents will always ask the very important question, “Does my child need tummy time”? The answer is “yes” because tummy time provides your child with the opportunity to strengthen their upper body and enhance motor skills while preventing the back of the head from becoming flattened.

It is important to note that infants under the age of 1 year old should never be placed on their tummies, without full supervision. The infant should also be awake during tummy time.

Taking Special Precautions

One of the first things that parents should do when they are preparing for the arrival of their newborn is to create a safe environment. While many new parents will opt to take advantage of a friend or family member’s hand-me-down crib and mattress, this can be a huge mistake.

In 1990, more questions began to float around SIDS deaths, which came with manufacturers making alterations in the crib mattress’s design. Now, crib mattresses must undergo several different safety tests, before being placed on the market. This helps to ensure infants are safe while reducing the risks of SIDS.

A superiorly firm and durable mattress is the best option. Hypoallergenic and organic materials are also becoming very favorable among all parents because they can reduce allergies and promote better air quality. Never, just go out there and purchase a mattress, because it looks and feels solid be sure to do your research on each brand first.

Perfect Fit

A crib mattress should be designed to fit the size and design of the crib perfectly. Infants over the age of 4 months will be able to move around quite a bit. If there are any gaps between the mattress and crib bars, the infant could potentially get their leg, head, arm, or entire body stuck in the opening.

This could lead to a life-threatening situation, which may not end well. The standard mattress will measure around 52” L X 28” W X 5” in thickness, but do a complete measurement of the crib, before making your final selection.

Stay Calm

It is important to note that your infant is going to fully rely on you to make the best decisions regarding their safety. While this may be a confusing topic for parents, you will do more justice for your infant, if you prepare yourself ahead of time. If your infant is going to be spending quite a bit of time at grandma’s house, you should also make them aware of the dangers surrounding this diagnosis.


As mentioned above, never place your child on his/her tummy, when settling them in for the night. Only use tummy time as a tool for strengthening upper body muscles and motor skill development, not for sleep time.

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