Does your baby look uncomfortable when sleeping?

The sight of a sleeping baby is one of the most peaceful, comforting images to me.

The sheer peacefulness and nearly inaudible sound of their breath. The perfect stillness of it all. Looks like the very definition of “rest”.

Uncomfortable when sleeping

There are definitely times this peacefulness can be thrown off a little however.

If your little one has started rolling over and learned how to navigate their cot, you may have noticed that they tend to get themselves into some uncomfortable looking positions.

Seriously, babies can get themselves into sleeping positions that would make a contortionist gasp in horror. They can often look very uncomfortable when sleeping.  

Sometimes this can be concerning from a safety standpoint. In the middle of the night and you’re checking the baby monitor and see that your little one has somehow managed to fall asleep while propped up on their toes and their forehead for the third time in under an hour, it can be really frustrating as well.

Now, one of the cornerstones for getting little ones sleeping through the night involves teaching them independent sleep skills. So one of the most common questions I get asked is..

“What am I supposed to do in a situation when my baby looks like they’re uncomfortable?”

Parents don’t want to wake their baby up by moving them back to the middle of the cot and repositioning them. However, they also don’t want to leave them bunched up in the corner of the cot looking like they’ve tied themselves in a knot.

My answer to the question, as with all things parenting-related, isn’t a simple yes or no.

uncomfortable when sleeping

To quote an old saying, “Sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do”.

When it comes to safety, everything else has to be shuffled down in the list of priorities.

So for example, your baby has learned how to roll from back to front, but hasn’t yet mastered the whole front to back thing. In this case, if baby is stuck on their tummy (and you will be able to tell, they will let you know!) then you will need to go in and roll them to their back.

Annoyingly, baby will probably roll straight back to her tummy, it’s a novelty you see. It will wear off. It’s also highly likely she prefers to sleep on her tummy which is why she is in that position in the first place.

Plenty of rolling practice in the day will help.

Those skills will soon transfer to the cot and there will be less times baby gets stuck.

Will that delay their ability to develop their independent sleep skills? Will they wake up cranky and fussy before going back to sleep?

Yes, probably. However, if baby’s face is down on the mattress and she can’t roll herself over, you’ve got to intervene, no matter the fallout.

The good news is that this is usually a short-term issue.

If baby’s gotten themselves into a position where they have a limb sticking out of the cot.

If you think they could potentially get stuck or twisted when they try to move, once again, you’ll just have to bite the bullet and help them.

This is rare thankfully. Particularly if baby is in a sleeping bag which I highly recommend. In addition, most cots nowadays don’t have much potential for this occurrence either.

If you do have to attend, do it quickly and quietly. Engage with them as little as possible.

What is babe has pushed themselves up against the side of their crib and just looks really uncomfortable. Should you still get in there and move them back to the middle?

In this case, probably not. Babies tend to find comfort in some pretty awkward looking positions. As long as they have good neck strength, their airway isn’t being obstructed (i.e. head tilted forward, nose and mouth in contact with the mattress) then it’s probably best to just let them sleep.

I know it can be a little concerning to see them with their knees practically tucked under their chin. If they are uncomfortable, they’ll most likely wake up and rearrange themselves. There’s not usually a need for a parent to reposition them.

Remember, safety first – always! If ever in doubt, head on in.

If you have any further concerns, talk to your pediatrician/GP, Maternal Health Nurse or refer to the Red Nose Australia website for safe sleep positions to make informed decisions about when you should and shouldn’t move your little one around in their cot.

More often than not, if they’re sleeping peacefully, they’re doing just fine. No matter how uncomfortable they might look in the process. 

For personalised help to teach your little one to fall asleep independently, please reach out.