Baby Sleeping On Side – Is It Dangerous for Babies to Sleep on Their Sides?  Yes – parents and caregivers are often advised not to let their babies sleep on their stomachs as there is an increased risk of SIDS. In terms of side sleeping, the experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have stated that side sleeping is not a safe alternative to sleeping on the back [1].

Babies who tend to roll on their sides are at a high risk of rolling on their bellies while they sleep which is the most dangerous sleep position for babies. Ensure that your baby is sleeping back down regardless of whether it is nap time or night time. Unless babies are strong enough to roll from back to front on their own, help them to sleep on their backs as much as possible.

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What is SIDSWhat Is SIDS?

SIDS is an acronym for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  This diagnosis is given to children considered healthy who die unexpectedly during sleep before they reach the age of 12 months. For years, doctors have been taking steps to reduce the SIDS rate, including suggesting babies sleep on their back. During the 1970s through the 1980s, stomach sleeping was recommended for babies as there was the belief that this prevents babies from choking on their own vomit, but this is not true. As a matter of fact, the rate of cot death, another term for SIDS, rose. The practice of having babies sleep on their backs showed more promise as the rate of infant death due to SIDS went down significantly [2].

Other Risks of Babies Sleeping on One Side

A baby side sleeping can be dangerous in other ways.

Flat Head Syndrome

Flathead occurs when a baby’s head remains in a single position regularly. This causes pressure upon that particular area of the skull. The skull can either become concave or flatten. If caught quickly, this can be corrected with the help of head braces. Some doctors suggest repositioning a baby’s head during sleep. Flathead can occur if a child lies on the side or back too long.


Another health issue that may arise when babies sleep on their sides is the risk of choking. An infant sleeping on the side may result in undue pressure on the neck of the child making breathing difficult. It also puts children at risk of choking due to gastroesophageal reflux. Ensure that your child does not sleep on the side or on the stomach.

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Baby Sleeping On SidePreventing A Baby From Side Sleeping

Training a child to sleep back down is beneficial for both comfort and safety. As babies start to develop muscles and motor skills, they will try to roll on their stomachs or their sides. However, the experts recommend that babies sleep on their backs until they are 12 months of age [2].

Here are a few steps to achieve this. Remember to evaluate a baby’s sleep environment at every stage of development. Child health changes as a baby grows. Parents and guardians must be aware every time they lay their children down, whether for naps or for the night.

Position a baby back down

Regardless of whether a baby sleeps in a crib or bassinet, it is important to position the infant back down. This protects them against cot death, and it can also protect them against upper respiratory infection during a nap or sleep at night.

Avoid using crib bumpers

Wedges, bumpers or sleep positioners may help keep a baby from bumping against the crib, but never leave a child sleeping with crib bumpers. These items may suffocate a baby if they accidentally fall on the child’s face. Also, avoid using pillows and stuffed toys.


Another tip to prevent sleeping on the side is by swaddling your baby. Swaddling recreates the world before birth. A baby is wrapped in a fetal position as experienced during the duration of pregnancy. It is a familiar feeling.  As soon as a baby learns to kick off the swaddling, using a sleeping sack may be conducive to sleep. Only do this when the temperature in the bedroom is cool enough to allow the baby sleep in an extra layer of clothing.

Offer a pacifier

Encouraging infants to sleep on their backs can start with offering them a pacifier before sleep. This can be a useful tool in a little one’s training. The baby’s preference will determine is a pacifier is a welcome implement.

Ease the baby into this sleeping position

Another technique to help infants sleep on their backs is to ease them into the position. Cuddling babies until they fall asleep may make it easier to place them on their backs for sleep.

Let the infant enter deep sleep

Cuddling little ones until they transition from light sleep to deep sleep may make it easier to put them on their backs in their cribs.

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A Last Word About Side-Sleeping

Hold off on the family bed. There is a difference between bed sharing and co-sleeping. During the early months, the safest place for babies to sleep is on their own mattresses. Co-sleeping means the baby has an individual mattress but sleeps in the same room as the parents. The mattress should be firm enough to prevent suffocation. No blankets, pillows or stuffed animals should be in the crib.

Bed sharing, when an infant sleeps in the same adult bed as the parents, increases the risk of SIDS, especially in preemies, babies with low birth weight and healthy full-term infants under four months [3]. Patience is key. Some babies may prefer side sleeping, so patience is key. Placing babies on their backs regularly will teach them the correct position.

Parents want to do everything in their power to protect their little ones from any harm. Parenting is a 24/7 job, ensuring both a child’s welfare during the day and safe sleep at night. Not everything is known about SIDS, but these guidelines may help parents to sleep better at night as well.

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Baby Sleeping On Side Resources:

[1]   American Academy of Pediatrics; American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Safe Sleep Recommendations to Protect Against SIDS, Sleep-Related Infant Deaths, October 24, 2016.
[2]   Kids Health from Nemours; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS),  Floyd R. Livingston Jr., MD, Mary L. Gavin, MD, February 2017.
[3]   Kids Health from Nemours; Bed-Sharing, Mary L. Gavin, MD, December 2016.

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