You know you have to handle your newborn with care, and positioning her safely -- especially for sleep -- is of paramount importance. Specific positions for your newborn's different activities also help baby develop normally, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP phrase "tummy to play and back to sleep" helps parents remember the basics for correct newborn positioning.
The ideal sleep position for your newborn is flat on his back, resting on a firm mattress in a crib without any stuffed toys, pillows, crib bumpers, comforters or blankets, according to the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. New babies should sleep on their backs to avoid the risk of sudden infant death syndrome -- but too much back time can have serious consequences. Babies can develop flat sections on the back or side of the head after too much time spent in any one position, warns KidsHealth.org.
Weak neck muscles make tummy time a difficult proposition for your newborn, but stomach placement is important for a few minutes several times a day during awake time, working up to at least 20 minutes a day by the time the baby is 3 or 4 months old, recommends MayoClinic.com. The lack of tummy time risks developmental delays, eye-tracking problems and behavioral issues, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. Other problems for babies who've missed out on tummy time include cognitive problems and delays in developing organizational skills later in childhood. Position your baby with a firm pillow or rolled towel under his chest to help him feel comfortable. This position elevates his body so he can learn to lift his head, and it also keeps his head elevated above the surface so he can breathe.
Cuddle your newborn close and support his head, neck and back firmly to guide his head when you move him. Holding him close gives him a feeling of warmth and security. Remember to always support your newborn's head when holding baby upright and when you lay him down. Avoid any shaking, jiggling or fast, jerking movements when holding your newborn.
Newborns don't have the muscle strength or coordination to push clothing or blankets away from their nose and mouth. Your newborn needs a firm surface during both sleep and waking periods to avoid blocking airways. Tight-fitting sheets also reduce the danger of suffocation. Avoiding soft fabrics, pillows or blankets reduces the risk of blocking baby's airways. The Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford recommends parents use a lightweight sleeper in the summer months and a flannel one-piece sleeper during the winter season. Don't cover baby's head during sleep or when holding your newborn.