Should Babies Sleep On Their Back Or Stomach
Sleeping comes naturally to most adults, so it’s easy to underestimate how important it is for your newborn to sleep safely. But creating a safe environment for your baby to sleep in is one of the most crucial things you can do while they’re infants.
Most parents have heard about sudden infant death syndrome . SIDS, also known as crib death, occurs when a baby dies unexpectedly and without explanation before their first birthday. Thinking about SIDS can be very stressful for new parents. Fortunately, one of the most effective ways to prevent SIDS is also very simple.
Putting your baby to sleep on their back carries a much lower risk of SIDS than putting them to sleep on their stomach. In the past, parents were encouraged to put their babies to sleep on their stomach. But as research on SIDS became more common and new discoveries were made, scientists realized that babies who sleep on their stomach have an increased risk of SIDS.
The cause of SIDS is still unknown, as is the reason why back sleeping is safer for babies. Experts have theorized that there are several mechanisms that make stomach sleeping unsafe, including:
- Increased risk of upper airway obstruction
- The baby might re-breathe the air that they’ve already exhaled, which could lead to low oxygen levels and carbon dioxide buildup
- Overheating due to improper body heat dissipation
- Abnormally high blood pressure and heart rate while sleeping
Why Shouldnt I Use Crib Bumpers In My Babys Sleep Area
Crib bumpers, bumper pads, and similar products that attach to crib sides, railings, or slats are often used with the intent of protecting babies from injury. However, evidence does not support using crib bumpers to prevent injury. In fact, crib bumpers can increase your babys risk of suffocation and wedging and can cause serious injuries or death. Keeping bumpers out of your babys sleep area is the best way to avoid these dangers.
Before crib safety was regulated, the spacing between the slats of the crib sides could be any width, which posed a danger to infants if the spaces were too wide. Parents and caregivers used padded crib bumpers to protect infants. Now that cribs must meet safety standards, the spaces between slats dont pose the same dangers. As a result, bumpers are no longer needed.
In 2021, the President signed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act , which prohibits the manufacture and sale of crib bumpers and certain inclined sleepers.
How Long Should I Put An Infant On His Back
The current guidelines recommend that babies be placed back-to-sleep for the first year. Once they start rolling over, they may end up on their tummies. As long as theyre able to roll from front to back and back to front efficiently, this shouldnt be a problem.
Your child is ready to sleep on their tummy once they can hold their head up. Stomach sleeping poses a suffocation risk, so you want the child to be able to move their head if they cant breathe.
Your baby rolling over both ways indicates theyre ready to sleep on their stomach. This allows the child to move from an uncomfortable position into a more comfortable one, whether on their side, stomach, or back. You can practice this by allowing the baby to spend time on their stomach during the day as it straightens the muscles in the neck and back.
You should always put your baby to sleep on their back until their first birthday. However, if your little one rolls over both ways before turning one, its safe to let them sleep however they want because they can probably move from an uncomfortable position at this point.
What Are Further Safety Precautions?
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Safe Sleep Practices For Infants
Practice the ABCs of safe sleep: Babies should always sleep Alone, on their Backs, in a Crib. Place your baby on his or her back for every sleep, night time and nap time.
Do not put your baby to sleep on his side or tummy.
Once your baby can roll from his back to tummy and tummy to back, your baby can stay in the sleep position that he assumes. But always place your baby to sleep on his back.
Place your baby on a firm mattress in a safety-approved crib with slats no greater than 2-3/8 inches apart.
Make sure your babys face and head stay uncovered and clear of blankets and other coverings during sleep. If a blanket is used make sure your baby is placed feet-to-foot in the crib. Remove all pillows from the crib.
Create a smoke-free-zone around your baby.
Avoid overheating during sleep and maintain your babys bedroom at a temperature comfortable for an average adult.
Remove all mobiles and hanging crib toys by about the age of 5 months, when your baby begins to pull up in the crib.
Remove crib bumpers by about 12 months, when your baby can begin to climb
For additional safe sleep practices for infants including information and video on choking, making a safe home environment, resources, swaddling and tummy time, click here.
What If My Baby Gets Stuck On Their Tummy
If your child rolls and gets stuck on their stomach while awake, the most effective solution is typically to just flip them back onto their back.
Because getting stuck on their stomach usually only persists for a few weeks while your child masters rolling both ways, many parents are willing to flip their little one over as a temporary solution to this phase.
Always place your baby to sleep on their back to decrease the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome . But its OK for infants to sleep on their stomach or side once theyre able to flip themselves over to that position themselves.
So if your child is able to flip onto their stomach and seems to enjoy sleeping that way, you can let them continue sleeping in that position.
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Follow All Sleep Guidelines For Naps Too
Though it probably goes without saying, the aforementioned sleep guidelines apply to nap times, too. Your wee one should be napped in a safe environment, on a firm, flat surface void of toys or objects. They should be dressed appropriately. One layer of clothing isin most casesadequate, and baby should be put to bed alone. They should always be placed on their back.
Never Sleep On The Couch With Your Baby
While snoozing on the sofa may seem like a great way for you and your baby to bond, it should be avoided at all costs. Couches tend to be softer and more plush than cribs or beds, making them a suffocation hazard. Mom or Dad could also accidentally roll over and hurt baby, and older infants may fall, potentially injuring themselves.
Looking for a better way to bond with baby? Try laying with your wee one on the floor during tummy time or in bed when both of you are awake. “If you bring your baby into your bed to feed or comfort them, place them in their own sleep space when you’re ready to go to sleep,” the AAP writes. You should also remove blankets, pillows, and loose fitting sheetsjust to be safe.
Oh, and never place a sleeping baby on a couch. Even if you’re awake, it’s never safe. It takes only a minute for suffocation to occur.
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How Old Are Babies Who Die From Sids
The majority of SIDS deaths occur before a baby reaches 6 months of age, and the number of SIDS deaths peaks between 1 month and 4 months of age.
However, SIDS deaths can occur anytime during a baby’s first year, so parents should still follow safe sleep recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS until their baby’s first birthday.
When Is Side Sleeping Safe For Your Baby
As weve mentioned, putting your baby to sleep on their side may make it easier for them to accidently roll over onto their stomachs. This isnt always safe, especially if your little one is younger than 4 months. At this tender age, babies are often too small to change positions or even lift their heads.
If your baby only falls asleep on their side , gently nudge them onto their back as soon as you can do so without waking them up!
If your acrobatically gifted baby rolls into a side-sleeping position after you put them down on their back, dont worry. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that its safe to let your baby sleep on their side if theyre able to comfortably roll over on their own.
After the age of about 4 months, your baby will be stronger and have better motor skills. This means that they can lift their head to explore this will be fun for both of you! and roll themselves over when you put them onto their tummy. At this age, its safer to let your baby sleep on their side, but only if they ends up in that position on their own.
Bottom line: Its still safest to lay baby down on their back for nap time and bedtime. Putting your little one to bed on their stomach isnt safe at any time in the first year of life and placing them in a side-sleeping position is unfortunately a quick way to get to the stomach. Tummy time is for when your baby is wide awake and ready to exercise with you.
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Sleep In The Same Room As Your Infant
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants should sleep in the same room as the caregiver, on a separate surface, for the first year after birth. Research has found that a child sleeping in the same room as parents can reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50%.
Caregivers may bring their infant into an adult bed for feeding or playtime. Before doing so, make sure to clear bedding and any soft items from the area. Once feeding or playtime is over, it is important to move the infant back into their separate sleeping area.
Is It Safe For Babies To Sleep On Their Stomach
Putting an infant under 1 year old to sleep on their stomach is not recommended by healthcare experts. Instead of allowing an infant to sleep on their stomach or side, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that caregivers place infants on their back until the child is at least 1 year of age. This recommendation applies to all types of sleeping, including daytime naps. After a child turns 1 year old, there is no need to make sure they sleep only on their back.
While stomach sleeping is not advised for most infants, there may be some children for whom the risks of sleeping on their stomach are outweighed by the benefits. Caregivers should discuss questions or concerns about sleeping position with their childs pediatrician.
What Are The Official Recommendations For Baby Sleep Positioning
If you were born before 1992, chances are you were put down to sleep on your stomach. This was the recommendation at the time to help decrease the risk of SIDS.
However, in 1992 the AAP released a new recommendation that babies should now be put down to sleep on their backs to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Along with this recommendation came a new list of research-backed doâs and donâts for new parents.
Following these research-backed recommendations will ensure a safe sleep environment.
We know these guidelines might seem like an inconvenience to parents. Especially if your infant sleeps on their tummy. However, safe sleep is crucial to reducing the risk of SIDS.
These recommendations include:
How Should Babies Sleep
The American of Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing without bed-sharing until the first birthday or for at least 6 months, when the risk of SIDs is highest.
While room-sharing is safe, putting your baby to sleep in bed with you is not.Bed-sharing increases the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths.
Follow these recommendations for a safe sleep environment for your little one:
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Does Sleeping On The Stomach Prevent Choking In Babies With Reflux
No!Even babies with reflux should sleep on their backs, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics . Whilevomiting and spitting up can be scary, rest assured that placing your baby on their back to go to sleep is not associated with choking. While back-sleeping, your babys airway anatomy and gag reflex work to keep them safe. When tummy-sleeping, however, babies are more likely to aspirate or choke, since anything they spit-up in this position can pool at the opening of their trachea.
A Quick History Of Sleep Positions
Youve probably heard from a number of sources the phrase Back to Sleep, a campaign that was launched in 1994 and is still used today. But why might your mom and grandmother insist you should put your baby on his or her tummy to sleep? Because for a long time, doctors did not understand that sleeping in the supine position was safest for babies.
In 1944, a pathologist from New York noticed that about 66% of infants who died from suffocation during the night were face down. These findings launched a short-lived campaign against face-down sleeping positions.
However, this campaign didnt last. In 1945 a pediatrician vocally rejected these findings through some faulty research of his own. He attributed the face-down sleeping deaths to infection, choking on vomit, and a hypersensitivity to inhaled milk. He also thought the suffocation explanation caused unnecessary guilt for parents over their childs death. While noble in his intentions, he set parents on the wrong path for the next 50 years.
From the late 1960s to the early 1990s, scientists conducted more research around what is now called SIDS . As early as 1988, scientists began to recommend putting babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS. Further studies made in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom supported this new suggestion.
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Baby Sleeping On Stomach: As Always Follow Safe Sleep Guidelines
It is always important that you follow safe sleeping guidelines with your baby but if your baby will be spending any time sleeping on her stomach, then its downright crucial.
Heres a quick overview of safe sleeping recommendations that youll want to follow in your home:
- Your baby should sleep on a firm surface thats covered by a tight-fitting sheet.
- There should be no loose bedding, soft pillows, or stuffed toys in your babys sleeping area.
- Its safest if your baby is sleeping near your bed , but not sleeping in your bed, which carries risks of suffocation.
- Try running a fan in your babys room theres evidence that it can reduce SIDS risks by up to 72%.
- Speaking of fans overheating is linked to SIDS, so dress your baby in light layers for sleep, and keep the bedroom temperature on the cool side.
What Are Other Risk Factors For Sids
Researchers suggest there are several factors that increase SIDS risks in babies. These include:
- Lying face down to sleep.
- Sleeping on soft surfaces not designed for infant sleep
- Sleeping with loose blankets
- Overheating during sleep
- Exposure to cigarette smoke during pregnancy or after birth
- Co-sleeping with parents.
- Research released in 2022 found that infants with low levels of the enzyme BChE were much more likely to succumb to SIDS.
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Tips For Babys Sixth Month
- Be on the lookout for signs that your baby is not hitting important milestones, like babbling, sitting unassisted, smiling, making eye contact, or responding to sounds. If youâre concerned they have missed any milestone, call your pediatrician.
- Some babies bang their heads or rock their bodies. It’s normal, provided they aren’t hurting themselves or doing it for hours at a time.
- Play peek-a-boo and similar games with your baby. It will help teach the idea of object permanence — that objects still exist, even when theyâre out of sight.
- Place toys just out of reach on the floor to encourage your baby to start crawling.
- If you have older children, make sure to put away toys with tiny pieces to prevent your baby from choking.
KidsHealth: ”Growth and Your 4- to 7-Month-Old.”
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: ”Safe Sleep for Your Baby.”
Curtis, G. and Schuler, J. Your Babyâs First Year Week by Week, Da Capo Press, 2005.
Joanne Cox, MD, director, Primary Care Center associate chief of general pediatrics, Childrenâs Hospital, Boston.
Jennifer Shu, MD, Childrenâs Medical Group, Atlanta co-author, Heading Home with Your Newborn.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: ”Babysitters and Child Care.”
American Academy of Pediatrics: ”Parenting Corner: Starting Sold Foods,” “Cognitive Development: 4 to 7 Months.” “Developmental Milestones: 7 Months.”
Mayo Clinic: “Pacifiers: Are They Good for Your Baby?”
Other Safe Sleeping Guidelines
Practicing safe sleep habits for your baby can be grueling during the first year. You’re exhausted, up and down all night, and listening to your baby wail on their back in their bare crib. In these moments, sticking to what you know is right may feel insurmountable. But this stage won’t last forever. Your baby will drift off. Soon enough, they’ll outgrow these risks . In the meantime, you’ll rest better knowing that you’ve done the safe thing.
Here are a few other sleep tips and tricks.
- Try giving your baby a pacifier at bedtime. Some babies find pacifiers soothing. If your baby enjoys suckling, you may want to introduce a pacifier at bedtime. Just be sure the pacifier is loose, i.e. don’t hang a pacifier around your baby’s neck or attach it to their clothing when they’re sleeping.
- Avoid substances, during and after pregnancy. Since drugs, alcohol, and nicotine increase baby’s risk factor for SIDS, you should avoid these substancesduring and after pregnancy. Secondhand smoke, for example, can be just a problematic.
- Swaddle your baby, if they like it. While swaddling doesn’t necessarily reduce your risk of SIDS, some babies find it soothing. It reminds them of the comfort they felt in the womb. Just be sure the swaddle isn’t too tight, and stop swaddling your baby when they begin to roll over.
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