Many parents wonder whether it is necessary to buy a carrycot to allow the baby to lie completely flat.
After all, it will only be needed for the first 4-6 months before transitioning to a pushchair.
Therefore, they would rather avoid buying yet another costly baby “gadget”.
Unless there is a valid reason for them to do so.
So, is it worthwhile to invest extra money on a carrycot and let the budget take a hit from your baby’s essentials list?
Well, allow me to explain why it is a good idea to buy a carrycot and why babies have to lie flat until 6 months.
Why Do Babies Have To Lie Flat Until 6 Months?
There are a few valid reasons why it’s worth buying a carrycot to allow your baby to travel in a flat-lying position. First, it supports the healthy development of their curled spine into a proper “S” shape. It also prevents their heavy heads from flopping forward and blocking their airway. On the other hand, if babies are placed in an inclined position, their heart rate and respiratory rate increase significantly. This won’t occur if they lie on a flat surface. In addition, lying in an inclined position increases the risk of SIDS through suffocation. Therefore, babies should not be placed in it.
Healthy Physiological development
After spending 9 months in a tight mother’s womb, babies arrive in this world all curled up with their legs always up in the air.
Their underdeveloped spine is formed in a “C” shape when looking from the side.
Now, an adult spine is shaped into an “S”.
These extra curves are essential to keep our bodies balanced and flexible and absorb the stress placed on the spine during walking or other daily activities.
So, during the first years of their lives, the baby’s spine will grow and develop to the correct “S” shape.
The first curve at the top of the spine will begin to form as the baby learns to lift and hold her head. And tummy time provides the perfect opportunity to practice this skill!
The bottom curve will be formed as your baby start walking unsupported.
Now, to help your baby flatten her scrunched spine and assist in muscle toning, she must lie on a flat surface. Only in flat position babies can stretch and freely move their arms and legs.
Furthermore, newborn babies have no neck control to support their heavy heads, so lying flat will prevent their heads from flopping around!
So, you need a carrycot if your pram or buggy doesn’t have a lie-flat option, such as a fully reclining seat.
How to Support Healthy Spine Development For Your Baby
Having said that, if your baby stays in a flat position for too long, it may put stress on their developing necks, skulls, hips, and spines.
Therefore, the most optimal environment for healthy physical and emotional growth for your baby is the be held upright with good leg support. For example, being upright on the mother’s body (babywearing) with an ergonomic baby carrier.
But this topic deserves a whole separate post, so stay tuned…
We all know that babies have poor head control in their first few months.
Therefore, if she sleeps in an inclined position, her head may fall forward. This, in turn, may cause her airways to get cut off, leading to suffocation.
Secondly, you may recall my post Why Do Babies Cry When They Are Delivered?, where I discussed that babies start using their lungs after birth.
Before that, their lungs are filled with amniotic fluid.
Once the baby is born baby starts breathing unaided using their still-developing lungs.
Only a flat-lying position can support their developing lungs and won’t put extra pressure on them.
According to the research conducted by Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the Universities of Bristol and Southampton, babies who are placed at an angle of 40 degrees, such as in a car seat or bouncer, have a faster heartbeat and breathing rate. This means that their blood oxygen level was lower and carbon dioxide level higher than babies who were lying flat.
However, the study didn’t address the consequences of lower oxygenation and the potential risk of them stopping breathing.
***As a side note, this may explain why car seat manufacturers recommend that babies shouldn’t be in a car seat for longer than 2 hours at a time.
Why Sleeping On An Incline Device Are Unsafe For Babies?
Except for the reduced oxygen level that circulates in your baby’s blood, there are other reasons why newborn babies shouldn’t sleep on non-flat surfaces.
And this reason is the increased risk of SIDS by suffocation.
When a baby’s head is placed higher than her feet, it becomes easier for her to lift her head and roll over to her tummy.
Once on her tummy, it is not that easy to flip over to the back.
So, if a baby’s face is pressed to a mattress or the soft padding of an inclined baby device, the baby may struggle to breathe. Or she could end up inhaling CO2 she exhales, which could lead to suffocation.
And because of this reason, many popular inclined baby sleeper products have been recalled by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission in recent years. Because they are not safe for babies to sleep in and shouldn’t be available for parents to buy.
Related post: Where Should My Newborn Baby Sleep?
What about Babies with Acid Reflux? Shouldn’t they Sleep In Incline Position?
Actually, it is a common misconception that babies with reflux should sleep with elevated heads.
The concern is that they may choke on a split-up if placed on a flat surface on their back.
But it isn’t true. Thanks to the gag reflex that your little tot is equipped with from birth!
This means that babies will instinctively cough up or swallow the spit-up, and this reflex prevents choking from occurring.
Furthermore, there is no evidence suggesting that elevating the head while sleeping reduces reflux.
You can, however, help your baby cope with reflux by following a few strategies. I discussed them in my post: How Can I Help My Baby With Acid Reflux?
Final Few Lines
So, to answer the question: Why do babies need to lie flat until 6 months? the short answer is:
- To aid the healthy development of their spine.
- To help them breathe properly, without constricting lungs and reducing oxygen saturation.
- Lying flat will prevent their head from moving forward since they have no muscles to control it.
Moreover, sleeping on a non-flat surface can be harmful to young babies and may increase the risk of SIDS. Therefore, it should be avoided at all costs. Even for babies with reflux.