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Article: How to Prevent Newborn from Rolling to the Side While Sleeping?

How to prevent newborn from rolling to the side while sleeping

How to Prevent Newborn from Rolling to the Side While Sleeping?

As new parents, ensuring your newborn sleeps safely and soundly is a top priority. One common concern that may arise is how to prevent your precious bundle of joy from rolling onto their side while sleeping. In this guide, we'll explore practical strategies and expert advice to help you create a secure sleep environment for your newborn, ensuring peaceful nights for both baby and parents.

What is newborn side sleeping?

Newborn side sleeping refers to the natural tendency of infants to roll onto their sides while sleeping. It is a common sleep behavior observed in babies, particularly during the early stages of their lives. This phenomenon is an integral part of a baby's exploration of movement and their developing motor skills. As newborns transition from the curled fetal position, they may instinctively shift to their sides, showcasing their innate capability for mobility.

When will newborns sleep on their sides?

The occurrence of newborn side sleeping is closely linked to their developmental milestones. Typically, babies begin to exhibit this behavior around the age of 2 to 4 months. This corresponds to a crucial period when their neck and upper body muscles strengthen, granting them greater control over their movements. As babies gain more muscle strength and motor control, they naturally explore different sleeping positions, including rolling to their side.

Baby Side Sleeping

Why do newborns roll onto their side?

Natural Reflexes and Movements: Newborns come into the world equipped with a remarkable array of reflexes that assist them in adapting to their environment. The act of rolling onto their side while sleeping is often influenced by these innate reflexes. One such reflex is the asymmetric tonic neck reflex (ATNR), which prompts a baby to turn their head to one side, extending the arm and leg on that side. This movement can inadvertently cause them to roll over. Additionally, the Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex, can trigger sudden movements, leading to side sleeping. These reflexes, combined with the natural inclination to explore their surroundings, contribute to the fascinating behavior of newborns rolling onto their side.

Muscle Development and Curiosity: As newborns grow, their muscles gradually gain strength and coordination. The muscles in their neck and upper body undergo significant development during the first few months of life. This newfound strength allows them to experiment with various movements, including rolling to their side. Babies are inherently curious beings, and their desire to interact with the world around them extends to their sleep environment. The exploration of different positions, such as side sleeping, is a testament to their developing motor skills and the innate drive to understand their bodies and surroundings.

Is It Safe for Newborns to Sleep on Their Side?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides essential guidance to ensure the safety of infants during sleep. According to the AAP, the safest sleep position for newborns is on their back. This recommendation is rooted in extensive research and aims to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While side sleeping is a common behavior, placing newborns on their backs for sleep is the most effective way to promote their well-being and minimize the risk of sleep-related incidents.

Side sleeping, although a natural tendency, does pose certain risks for newborns. When a baby is placed on their side, there is a potential for them to roll onto their stomach, which can increase the risk of suffocation. Babies may have difficulty lifting their heads or turning their faces away from the sleep surface, making it harder to breathe if their face is pressed against the mattress or other bedding. This can lead to a decreased intake of oxygen and an increased intake of carbon dioxide, increasing the risk of SIDS.

Additionally, placing a baby on their side may also contribute to an uneven sleep surface. This can lead to an increased risk of plagiocephaly, a condition characterized by flat spots developing on the baby's head. While some parents may be concerned about their baby spitting up during sleep, the risk of choking on spit-up is relatively low, and placing the baby on their back allows for better airway protection.

How to make side sleeping safer?

  • Use a product specifically made for safe side sleeping, such as a breathable sleep sack or wearable blanket. These are designed to keep babies warm without the risk of rolls and can help prevent babies from rolling onto their stomach if placed on the side.
  • If your baby tends to roll onto their side during sleep, gently reposition them onto their back when you notice it. Over time, this can help your baby get accustomed to back sleeping.
  • Always place babies on their back to sleep, as this has been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS. However, if babies prefer sleeping on their side, there are ways to reduce risks.
  • Another option is the "sidecar sleeper" which attaches to the adult bed but has walls to prevent rolling. This allows close proximity without the risk of co-sleeping.
  • Do not use thick, loose bedding and avoid large pillows, bumpers or toys in the sleep area. Anything that could cover the face should be removed.
  • Monitor babies closely if they roll onto their side or stomach during sleep and gently roll them back. Infants may still be at risk on their side if unaccustomed to this position.

Misconceptions and common myths about newborn sleep positions

With the plethora of information available, it's not uncommon for misconceptions and myths to arise. Let's delve into some of these misconceptions and shed light on the facts surrounding newborn sleep positions. 

Myth: Side Sleeping is Safer Than Back Sleeping 

Many parents believe that placing their newborn on their side for sleep is safer, assuming it reduces the risk of choking on spit-up. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) firmly recommends placing infants on their backs to sleep. Back sleeping significantly reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and provides the best protection for the baby's airway.

Myth: Belly Sleeping Helps with Digestion

Some caregivers may think that allowing a newborn to sleep on their belly aids digestion or reduces colic. This notion is unfounded and can actually pose risks. Babies who sleep on their bellies are at a higher risk of suffocation and SIDS, as they may have difficulty turning their heads or lifting their faces from the sleep surface.

A Naked Baby Lying On His Belly

Myth: Babies Can Roll Over Safely from Birth

While it's true that babies have natural reflexes and movements, they are not developmentally ready to roll over with ease immediately after birth. Newborns lack the necessary muscle strength and control to consistently turn their bodies, especially during sleep. Placing a newborn on their back is the safest sleep position until they can independently roll over, usually around 4 to 6 months of age.

Myth: Wedges and Positioners Ensure Safety

Wedges or positioners are sometimes used to prop up a newborn in a specific sleep position. However, these devices are not recommended by medical experts. They can pose a suffocation hazard or cause the baby to become trapped, increasing the risk of injury or SIDS.

Myth: Sleep Positioners Improve Sleep Quality

Some products claim to improve a baby's sleep quality by keeping them in a particular sleep position. These claims are not substantiated by scientific evidence. In fact, adhering to the AAP's safe sleep guidelines and creating a safe sleep environment is the most effective way to ensure restful and safe sleep for your baby.


And there you have it! Navigating the ever-changing world of your baby's sleep positions is a journey filled with surprises and adjustments. Just remember, while you might not have a "baby sleep GPS" guiding you through each twist and turn, your instincts and the insights we've explored will help you navigate the sleep adventure like a seasoned explorer. So, whether your little one prefers their left side, right side, or even practices the occasional sleep pirouette, rest assured that with a sprinkle of care and a dash of supervision, you'll be rocking the art of safe and sound baby slumber. Happy snoozing, and may your nights be filled with the sweetest dreams – for both you and your little sleep acrobat!

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Yujia Shi

An expert in sleep sack design, is a valued contributor to Kaiya Baby's blog. With a strong background in baby sleep bags and maternal care, she is highly regarded for her professionalism. Yujia Shi prioritizes baby comfort and safety in her designs, using high-quality materials. Her insightful articles on sleep bags have been featured in reputable publications and have gained a significant readership. Trust Yujia Shi to help you create a comfortable and safe sleep environment for your baby, backed by her proven track record in the industry.

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