How to …position the baby

Before you begin….

In the hospital, the baby is placed in a number of different positions, depending on the equipment he is hooked up to as well as for variety. At home, the position is on the back for “Safe Sleep for Your Baby”, as the baby will no longer be under constant monitoring and medical supervision. You will notice that as the time comes for the baby to be discharged home, the baby will be placed on his back more often as recommended by Health Canada, so that he gets used to sleeping that way.

Just remember: At home, baby sleeps on his back. It’s “Safe Sleep for Your Baby”.

A nest for baby

To keep the baby comfortable, rolls are used to create a nest and keep the body supported in proper position.

Though materials and equipment are available in the NICU and in stores, they are relatively expensive and the baby outgrows them quickly. We suggest you use receiving blankets or small blankets, sheets and towels that can be rolled into the right size and washed often.

In the course of your baby’s hospital stay, the staff will show you how to place the baby in various positions, as you will be asked to help out with baby care.

Never leave any extra rolling material in the crib or bassinet!

Techniques for proper positioning

On the back


Positioning on the back


Helpful hint: So that the baby can look at you and at the room sometimes from the left and sometimes from the right, alternate between placing him at the head and at the foot of the crib.

On the stomach


Positioning on the belly

On the side


Positioning on the side

You can use these positioning techniques at all times until the baby can adopt proper positioning on his own. If the baby finds certain positions uncomfortable, you may want to ask a physiotherapist or occupational therapist for advice.

Transition to home

Safe Sleep for Your Baby (or back to sleep)

At night or for daytime naps, the baby should be put on his back (“Safe Sleep for Your Baby”). This is the recommended position to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

 Bébé prématuré dans une isoletteSafe Sleep for Your Baby from Health Canada 

Good to know…

Putting babies to sleep on their back has reduced the number of sudden infant deaths (SIDS) by 40%.

Additional precautions to prevent SIDS:

  • Use a hard mattress
  • Avoid smoking (or any second-hand smoke) in the baby’s airspace – including house, car, daycare centre
  • Do not overheat the baby (too much clothing or too much blankets in the crib or bassinet)
  • Remove all pillows, butterfly pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals from the crib or bassinet
  • Breastfeed if possible
  • Keep the crib in your room until corrected age 6 months (Canadian Paediatric Society)

When the baby is awake…

Remember that changes in position are important when the baby is awake. The same principles of flexion and alignment apply to play positions as well.

  • Help the baby tuck his body into proper flexion and alignment, using your hands or nesting rolls if need be
  • Place toys where they will stimulate his interest
  • If there’s a toy overhead, such as a mobile, centre it over the child’s bellybutton area so that he does not overextend his head and neck
  • Place toys to the right and left of the baby to stimulate head movement

During playtime 

Positioning the baby for playtime

Semi inclined

Sitting in a baby's chair

How to carry the baby

Carrying the baby can be fun. It allows you to hold the baby close. It gives you the freedom to change scenery and activities. It is also comforting to a crying or colicky baby.

Buddha position

With the baby facing away from you, put one hand under her bottom, holding the legs flexed; support the front of the baby’s body against your chest with your other hand, with baby’s arms centred out front. Make sure the head is gently flexed.

How to hold and carry the baby: Buddha position

On your forearm

Place the baby with her stomach resting on your arm and her head in the crook of your elbow. Make sure she faces front and her arms are on both sides of yours. With your other hand, bring the legs into a flexed position.

How to hold and carry the baby: On the forearm

On the side

How to hold and carry the baby: Football hold

Eventually, you will discover other favorite ways of holding the baby. All are appropriate so long as they encourage overall flexion.

Why it’s important

A bit of theory

Basic concepts

How to ...

Useful links

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