Why Positioning Matters When Kids Are Sick

Discovering how to improve your sick kid’s comfort is a great way to decrease pain levels and promote relaxation. Think about the last time you woke up with a sore neck or back. Frequently, it has a lot to do with the position you slept in!

Figuring out which comfort positions work best for your child can do a lot to help them get the rest they need to feel better.

How To Think Like A Nurse

In a hospital setting, nurses are required to document patient positioning every 2 hours. Although it may seem like a chore, there’s a good reason for it. Positioning plays a significant role in comfort and safety. When patients, particularly non-mobile ones, are left in the same position for too long, they become at risk for bed sores and other discomforts.

Figuring it out

Finding a comfortable position for your child may take some trial and error. What works well for one kid, may feel like a form of torture to another. Becoming aware of different positioning options can help you as you search for ways help your child feel better.

Resting Positions

Resting positions are a great way to help your child recoup and recover as they require minimal energy. However, oftentimes, we send our sick kids to rest without thinking of ways in which we can maximize their comfort. Here are a few options for you to consider:

Side Position

Have your child lie down on their side, with a pillow between their knees. Ask them which side they prefer and have them pull their legs slightly towards their chest for a little bend.

Back Position

This is the most obvious position. You can add to your child’s comfort by placing a pillow underneath their knees.

Prone Position

The prone position, or lying on their stomach, is a great option when your child is tired of lying on their back.

Elevate Various Limbs

Depending on your child’s needs, elevating a limb or two may help decrease swelling and inflammation.

Fetal Position

Many people instinctively curl up into the fetal position when they’re in pain.

Active Positions

Active positions include more movement and energy expenditure. Think about how an infant is soothed by rocking or a toddler settles when they are cuddled. Here are a few ideas:


Cuddling with your child can be incredibly comforting. Even teenagers appreciate a good cuddle! Cuddling helps kids feel loved and protected.


Rocking in a chair or gently swaying side-to-side can also be soothing for younger children. Older kids might enjoy resting in a hammock.


If your child has been in bed for a while, it may be helpful to position them in a comfy chair. This gives them the ability to move around a bit and engage in distraction play.


Gentle stretching can also be comforting. Encourage your child to stretch from head to toe or rotate their wrists and ankles.


Taking a slow walk can also feel good after spending the day lying around. Walking can also give your child a nice change of scenery.

Positioning Aids (Do not use with infants)

Positioning aids and equipment can be valuable tools to provide additional support and comfort for children with specific health needs. These aids are designed to assist in maintaining proper positioning, relieving pressure, and reducing discomfort.

Pillows: Pillows come in various shapes and sizes and can be used to support different body parts. For example, a small pillow can be placed under the head and neck to maintain proper alignment and reduce strain.

Larger pillows can provide support for the back, legs, or abdomen, depending on the child’s needs. It’s important to choose pillows that are age-appropriate and specifically designed for children to ensure safety and comfort.

Wedges: Wedges are triangular-shaped cushions that can be used to elevate specific body parts or provide support in certain positions. For example, a wedge can be placed under the legs to elevate them, promoting blood circulation and reducing swelling.

Wedges can also be used to position a child on their side, providing support and preventing them from rolling onto their back during sleep.

Special cushions: Specialized cushions, such as foam or gel cushions, are designed to distribute pressure evenly and provide optimal support. These cushions are often used for children with conditions that require prolonged sitting or lying down.

Positioning rolls: Positioning rolls or bolsters are cylindrical cushions that can be used to support specific body parts or provide stability. They are commonly used to maintain proper alignment and prevent rolling or shifting during sleep or therapy sessions.

Positioning rolls can be placed under the knees, ankles, or arms to alleviate pressure and provide support.

Customized positioning aids: In some cases, children may require customized positioning aids tailored to their specific health conditions or physical limitations. These aids may be designed in collaboration with healthcare professionals, such as occupational or physical therapists. Customized aids could include specially molded cushions, splints, or braces that provide optimal support and positioning for your child.

Seek Medical Advice When Using Positioning Aids With Children

It is crucial to note that the use of positioning aids and equipment should be done under the guidance and recommendation of healthcare professionals. They can assess your child’s needs, recommend appropriate aids, and provide instructions on proper usage and positioning techniques.

Why is professional assistance important?

Incorrect or improper use of positioning aids can lead to discomfort, compromise safety, or exacerbate existing conditions. You want to be sure you are not doing more harm than good!

Positioning Considerations

When it comes to helping your child choose a comfortable position, keep the following in mind:

  1. How much pain is your child in?
  2. Are they feeling nauseated?
  3. Is there a possibility that a new position could increase their pain?
  4. What has worked best for them in the past?
Baby sleeping in a crib.

Positioning and Infants

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends placing infants on their backs for all sleep periods, including naps and nighttime sleep. This position helps reduce the risk of SIDS. Infants who sleep on their backs are less likely to experience breathing difficulties or suffocation.

Use a firm sleep surface: Provide infants with a firm mattress or crib surface for sleep. Avoid placing them on soft surfaces such as adult beds, couches, or pillows, as these increase the risk of suffocation. Ensure the crib or bassinet meets safety standards and has a snug-fitting mattress.

Remove loose bedding: Keep the sleep environment free from loose bedding, including blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and bumper pads. These items can pose suffocation hazards or increase the risk of entanglement. Instead, consider using a sleep sack or wearable blanket to keep the baby warm.

Final Thoughts

Positioning may seem like a small thing, but it can have a significant impact on how your child feels. Try these positions and see which one works best for your child!

Looking for more ways to comfort your kids when they are sick? Check out my articles on understanding children’s pain and how to use the five love languages to comfort kids.

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