There are few topics that spark a heated debate as quickly as parenting methods.
There are a million schools of thought on everything from sleep cycles to letting your kid walk home from school alone. Even breastfeeding stirs debate, as we saw with this nursing bride on her wedding day.
But there are plenty of other parenting issues that still fly under the radar for one reason or another. For example, the topic of co-sleeping has sparked plenty of conversation, but what about other baby sleeping setups?
Sleep is, after all, one of the formative experiences of any life, and is especially important for newborns and babies who exhaust themselves constantly with all of that growing and learning.
How a baby sleeps early on can have a huge effect on their development as they get older, especially the physical side of things.
Read on below to learn more about the physical risks of putting a baby to sleep in the wrong position.
When a baby is born in the hospital, they go into box-like, padded hospital bassinets.
These plastic structures aren’t exactly cozy-looking, but it’s a road-tested arrangement that translates well into cuter home nursery setups!
After all, a basic bassinet with a simple padded mattress on the bottom has been the standard for sleeping babies for ages.
According to the Bump, babies, especially newborns, should always be put to sleep on their backs, on a fairly firm surface.
Doctors have also confirmed that there shouldn’t be anything in the bassinet with the baby other than the mattress, including blankets, pillows, and soft animals.
Putting the baby to sleep on his or her back and getting rid of soft material helps to protect babies from the risks of suffocation and SIDS.
The basic baby bed setup and the related information about SIDS is common knowledge to most parents, but there’s another major reason that babies should sleep on their backs in bassinets or similar cribs.
Babies are born with a fontanelle, or “soft spot” to help make the process of labor a bit easier on Mom.
In generally, the fontanelle seals as the bones in the baby’s head develop and move closer together.
Ideally, the skull is fully formed by 18 months, and has a naturally rounded shape.
However, in order for a rounded skull to form naturally, the baby has to be able to freely move his or her head as the neck muscles develop.
Sleeping on a flat, relatively firm mattress is hugely beneficial because it allows the baby to change position over the course of a sleep cycle.
It will also improve the strength of the neck and back muscles, making “tummy time” a whole lot easier.
Bouncy chairs and car seats can work wonders for lulling babies to sleep, because the babies enjoy the security of being tightly nestled in and supported.
That said, babies should not be allowed to remain sleeping in these spaces, because they hold the head in place, which prevent babies from moving their heads naturally.
It can lead to a condition called Flat-Head Syndrome, where the fontanelle closes in a flat or skewed shape.
This condition can usually be remedied if caught early enough.
Young babies can simply be moved into space where they move their heads more freely, and their skull shape should adapt as normal on its own.
Older babies whose bones are more set in place may need to wear shaping helmets to return the head to a more rounded shape.
Meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong with letting a fussy baby be lulled to sleep for a few hours in a car seat, a bouncy seat, or a baby rocker.
Just make sure to move the baby into the crib or bassinet once they’re snoozing deeply.
That way, their growing skull will benefit, and it will be easier to get them to go to sleep in the bassinet in the first place!
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