The Cranial Therapy Centers Blog

Safe Sleeping Patterns for Your Baby


If, heaven forbid, you heard of a baby dying from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), you would certainly not think of putting your precious baby to sleep on it’s stomach. Yet back sleeping does have it’s disadvantages. As a conscientious parent, your priority is the safety of your baby. You have been warned about dangerous sleep positions as well as the type of bedding and crib to purchase. Most parents are aware that the safest way to put their baby to sleep is on it’s back. You have also been warned that keeping your baby in one position on it’s back can cause torticollis and plagiocephaly. But of all the side effects of unhealthy sleep patterns, SIDS is the one that is fatal and a parent’s worst nightmare. Yet, at the same time, you would like to prevent the need to rely on physical and helmet therapies to cure plagiocephaly and torticollis. Why not find a way to prevent all three of these maladies, SIDS, plagiocephaly and torticollis?

The back to sleep program for the prevention of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) which began in the 1990’s became so popular that it lead to a new group of syndromes, not as severe yet serious, torticollis and plagiocephaly. By parents putting their babies to sleep exclusively on their backs, the incidence of SIDS became remarkably lowered. SIDS can occur without any previous symptoms and the true cause is unknown. Yet the back to sleep program has reduced SIDS amazingly. However, the result of this program is the appearance of babies with crooked necks, weak muscle tone and flat heads. Must back sleeping and head/neck problems go hand in hand, or can we have safe sleeping without these negative effects?

SIDS prevention has become so effective that the falling statistics are very inspiring. Here are some of the recommendations that medical professionals have been advising parents of infants to prevent SIDS.

12 Ideas To Help Prevent SIDS

1) Putting your baby to sleep on it’s back only.

2) Keeping the baby cool and avoiding overdressing of the baby by avoiding clothes and buntings that are too warm.

3) Avoiding any cigarette smoking in the vicinity of the baby.

4) Breastfeeding may give some protection against SIDS.

5) Avoiding the use of crib bumpers: In the past, no baby linen set would be complete without bumpers around the inside perimeter of the crib to prevent the baby from hurting it’s head. Now doctors are very strict about this because bumpers pose a strangulation risk.

6) Making sure the crib mattress is firm: Although a soft mattress would seem to be more comfortable, a firm one keeps the baby’s airway passages clear and assures unimpaired breathing. If you notice that your baby does have breathing issues either from a cold or unknown reason, get him or her to the doctor quickly.

7) Using a baby monitor that is attached to the crib with a screen that will alert you if the baby is having difficulty breathing.

8) Swaddling has been connected to reducing the incidence of SIDS in infants.

9) Using a pacifier: We always knew that pacifiers were helpful to parents for pushing off feedings when babies only need to suck. Now pacifiers have become popular for a medical reason as well. A recent study found that using a pacifier can reduce SIDS by ninety percent.

10) Keeping nothing in the crib: This means no pillows, no stuffed animals or heavy blankets. Loose objects have been responsible for suffocation deaths in infants. Some health professionals go so far as to advise parents not to use any blankets, not even light ones. Rather dress the baby in a warm sleeper to give them the cozy and cuddling feel.

11) Sleeping with your baby is not recommended. If you are a deep sleeper, you can be clueless as to what is happening to your baby while you sleep. Co-sleeping, as it is called, is a beautiful bonding experience in theory, however, it can be dangerous.

12) Stay up to date with vaccinations: Although the mother’s immunity is transferred to the baby, this is not a complete prevention method. Especially today, with a group of parents who are against vaccination, diseases such as measles are springing up. If you have any reason to believe that your baby may have a sensitivity to a vaccine, you can ask your pediatrician to divide the vaccine into smaller doses at separate times. This is what my daughter-in-law does.

Young parents of today have not witnessed the seriousness of contracting childhood diseases such as, chicken box, rubella, mumps and measles. When my younger sister contracted the measles as a young child, she also became quite sick with pneumonia. I remember her lying in her bed and the doctor coming to the house to check on her every day. Mumps can have a side effect in males of infertility since it involves various glands. Most parents today do not remember the devastating consequences of German measles or Rubella. Rubella, a relatively milder form of measles, causes birth defects in infants whose mothers contracted it during pregnancy. If a mother had school age children, it was common for a child to catch this disease in school and bring it home to the mother. Personally, I know of two mothers who contracted Rubella when pregnant with their oldest child. One child is hard of hearing and the other is missing a finger on each hand. These mothers did not even have other children in school yet.

Let’s examine the intricacies of a baby’s skull and muscles. A baby’s skull is very soft, and any pressure can easily affect the bones of it’s head. The stemocleidomastoid muscles in a baby’s neck are weak as well. Babies tend to turn their heads to one side when placed on their backs. If the baby favors only one side of it’s head and repeatedly sleeps on that side, the skull may flatten. This is called a “flat head” or clinically known as positional plagiocephaly.

You will probably not be willing to go against the tide and go back to the pre 1990’s sleep positioning protocol for babies (tummy sleeping). By constantly changing your baby’s head position each day you will be able to prevent your baby’s head from becoming flat and at the same time strengthening it’s neck muscles.

When your baby’s crib is next to a wall, the baby will naturally turn away from the wall to look out into their room. This way they can see if anyone comes into their room. The following positioning will help your baby without obstructing it’s view. On day one, place your baby with it’s head at the front of the crib. On day two, place your baby with it’s head at the foot of the bed.

On each day simply alternate your baby’s head direction in the crib. Check to make sure that your baby is constantly looking out into the room and not at the wall. As your baby becomes more alert and attuned to toys, try putting a mobile on the side of the crib facing the room instead of on the top middle of the crib. In fact, if you can find a mobile that’s easy to maneuver, change the positions of the mobile on the crib.

If you breastfeed, you will also be helping your child develop good muscle tone and prevent a flat head by natural alternating to different sides. Even a bottle-fed baby can have the same type of attention. Just keep track of which side you held it last and alternate to the other side when giving the next bottle. If you must, keep a written record of which side you held your baby the last time you fed him or her. This extra step can mean the difference of a flat head or no flat head.

If you insist on being of the old school of putting the baby to sleep on his stomach here is an idea. In the study of pacifier use that we mentioned above; pacifiers reduced the probabilities of a baby suffering from SIDS by ninety percent. This does not mean necessarily that babies should be sleeping on their stomachs but if they do at least let them suck on a pacifier. Interestingly, the study could not pinpoint the exact reason why pacifiers help. Some experts explain that sucking on a pacifier, can help correct minor developmental abnormalities. Dr. Ke-Kun Li, a reproductive epidemiologist, who led this research, has a much simpler explanation for the pacifier’s advantages. “The bulky handle sticks out,” he notes. “If you have the bulky handle, even if the baby wants to bury it’s face in soft bedding, it can’t.” He deduced this fact because thumb sucking was not as an effective preventative as the pacifier.

We know in life there are times when extreme measures must be used. There is no room for compromise where safety is concerned. Sleeping your baby on it’s back is the first step in the protection of your baby’s life. By using the relative easy exercises and ideas in this article, you will be able to relax with the knowledge that your baby is sleeping securely and yet using his neck muscles correctly, moving his or her head in the crib, thus preventing SIDS, torticollis and plagiocephaly, all at the same time.

Cranial Therapy Centers is the only early interventions cranial center in the United States which provides both helmet and manual therapy treatment. We are American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics Facility. Visit us in Lakewood NJ, at 1352 River Ave Unit 14, Lakewood NJ, 08701 or in Teaneck NJ at 1086 Teaneck Road Suite 3F, Teaneck, NJ 07666. You can also email us

If you think that your child may require treatment, please contact us