Every baby is different and likes and dislikes will vary from one infant to another. Some babies like lying on their backs while a few may fuss. However, there could be another more serious cause why a baby simply doesn’t like being on their backs that you should be aware of if you have a baby who fusses in this position.
Why Is It Preferable For A Baby To Lie Flat On The Back?
The main reason why it is better for an infant to lie on their backs is respiration or breathing. A baby placed on their tummies or side is at a greater risk of being smothered by blankets or the sleeping surface or mattress. Placing a baby on a pillow or with their heads raised can obstruct respiratory passages. Lying flat on the back allows for deep breathing and the maximum amount of oxygen to be drawn through those tiny noses and into the lungs.
Another reason your paediatrician may insist on your baby lying flat on their back is for ideal growth and development. Infants have very soft bones that are growing rapidly. A baby lying on their stomach or curled up on their side may experience some problems with the physical development of the spine and hips.
What Can Cause A Baby To Hate Lying Flat On Back?
If your baby fusses slightly or cries for a short period when first placed on their backs before calming, there is little reason for concern. However, if baby screams or cries for an extended period of time, it’s likely that lying flat on their backs is causing some kind of discomfort or pain. It is recommended to pay a visit to your pediatrician as soon as possible.
One of the following conditions could be the cause of the pain or discomfort.
- Acid reflux. Lying flat on the back can cause the acid from the stomach to rise up into the esophagus (throat) and mouth causing pain.
- Colic or constipation. Your baby could have a tummy ache that is causing them to draw their legs up and cry when placed on their backs.
- The fetal position. Baby may simply want to lie in the fetal position which they have become familiar with in the womb. While this isn’t a serious problem, your pediatrician can give you advice on how to overcome it. This is more likely to affect quick birth or C-section babies.
If none of these are the cause of the fussing or crying, your pediatrician should do a full check-up to look for other causes of pain and discomfort.
What Can You Do About It?
Your pediatrician can provide you with treatments for acid reflux, colic and/or constipation to alleviate the pain and discomfort that your baby is experiencing when lying flat on their backs. You can also try the following:
- A warm bath before sleep time to calm and relieve some of the pain baby is experiencing.
- Baby massage to gently help stretch the muscles, tendons and joints. Visit a cranial osteopath if your baby seems to want to sleep in the fetal position.
- Swaddle your baby tightly or lay in bed with them to avoid the startle or fear response associated with lying on their backs.
- Let your baby fall asleep in your arms before placing them flat on their backs in the crib.
- Let baby sleep on their tummies on your chest.
- Allow baby to sleep on their side or tummy under your strict supervision to ensure that they are breathing properly and not getting smothered.
It is generally not recommended to place your baby on their tummy or side while awake until they are able lift their heads or roll over on their own which normally takes place at around 6 months of age. It is not recommended to let baby sleep on their side or tummy until about 1 year.