When Its All Said And Done
We understand that putting your baby to sleep can be a struggle, even without worrying over what position they take. But we also know children are the most precious things in life, and you want to protect them! Making sure they sleep on their backs is an essential part of doing that.
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Sleep And Baby Skull Development
Sleeping on their backs can cause babies’ skulls to temporarily grow out of shape, known as plagiocephaly . You can avoid this by lying your baby’s head on the opposite side every time you place them down to sleep. The shape of your babys head will gradually become normal with time and almost never requires treatment.
To help avoid this happening, you can try tummy time with your baby each day, by placing them on their tummy while awake, so they can play and explore. This is also a good way of training your baby’s stomach, back and neck muscles.
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
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My Mum Tells Me That Babies Used To Sleep On Their Front Why Has The Advice Changed
Ah, the grandparent wisdom Well, its true that up until 1991, the recommendation given to parents was to put babies on their tummies. Newer research shows that the chance of SIDS is much higher when a baby is placed on their front to sleep .
Just make sure your baby has plenty of tummy time during the day when you can supervise. This reduces their risk of flat head syndrome .
An Important Note On Wrapping Or Swaddling
If you wrap or swaddle your baby for sleep, this needs to be adjusted for the age of your baby. Babies under two or three months may have their arms included in the wrap to reduce the effects of the Moro or startle reflex, where the baby feels unsupported and as though theyre falling.
Babies older than three months can have their lower body wrapped but with their arms free. This allows the baby access to their hands and fingers, which promotes self-soothing behaviour while still reducing the risk of the baby turning onto the tummy.
The startle reflex should have disappeared by the time the baby is four to five months, so theres less need for wrapping. Wrapping and swaddling should be discontinued as soon as the baby shows the first signs of rolling over. Wrapped or swaddled babies should NEVER be placed on their tummy to sleep.
A wide range of infant care products designed as infant swaddles, wraps and wearable blankets have proliferated on the market. Theres very limited evidence these promote infant settling, keep babies on their back and no evidence these products reduce the risk of sudden death.
But there is some evidence a properly fitting infant sleeping bag one with a fitted neck and armholes thats the right size for the babys weight may be protective against sudden death. This is possibly because they delay the baby rolling onto their tummy and eliminate the need for bedding in the cot.
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Help My Baby Hates Tummy Time
Some tots seem to love playing on their tummies. Others might act like they cant stand it. Keep trying! There are many things you can do to help your baby get comfortable and even have fun in this position.
1. Go slow. Some infants will only tolerate a few minutes of tummy time in the beginning. That’s perfectly normal.
2. Move to his level. “Tummy time can initially be scary because it’s new,” Wallace says. “Getting down on the ground and doing face-to-face encouragement will reassure a baby that he can do it and it’s OK.”
3. Use plastic mirrors. Your baby will probably lift their head to admire their reflection.
4. Put the baby on your tummy or chest. Newborns love to lay on a parent and gaze up at their face, Wallace says.
5. Involve a sibling. If you have an older child, encourage them to get down on the floor and play with their little brother or sister .
6. Work it into other activities. Put your baby on their tummy while you dry them after a bath, smooth on lotion, or burp them .
7. Sing or tell a story. They’ll raise their head and move around when they hear your voice. Remember to make eye contact, too.
8. Offer extra support. Make a bolster out of a thin towel or blanket. Roll it up, put it under your baby’s chest, and stretch their arms forward and over the roll. Be careful to keep their chin, mouth, and nose away from the bolster.
How Can I Encourage My Baby To Sleep On Their Back
The best way to make sure your baby sleeps on their back is to put them in that position straight away. Keep it up with every sleep, at night and for naps .
Dont use any type of equipment or rolled up blankets to wedge your baby in one position . That is, unless a health professional has advised you to do so. For more information, see our page on cot safety.
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What About Flat Head Syndrome
Plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome, is a common concern for parents who put their babies to sleep on their backs. The idea is that if you allow a baby to rest their head in the same way for too long, it can cause a flat spot to develop, since a babys skull is soft after birth.
The truth is, most cases of plagiocephaly are harmless, and have more of a cosmetic effect than anything else. Its unlikely to affect brain development. Your doctor will be able to tell you if its something to worry about.
The syndrome can also be treated, often with the use of a molded helmet that reshapes the skull.
Of course, there are also things you can do to prevent plagiocephaly. Encourage your baby to turn their head to the side when lying on their back in the crib. You might want to put a brightly-colored or music-making toy outside their crib, for example, to attract their attention. You can switch the direction you lay your baby down each night , so that hell turn his head the other way to keep looking into the room.
Supervised tummy time during the day is another way to help prevent plagiocephaly.
Tips For Improving Sleep Safety
The following sleep safety tips can help keep a baby safe, even if they roll onto their side or stomach:
- Sleep in the same room as the baby: A bassinet or crib next to the bed allows people to check on the baby easily. Ensure that pillows or other objects from the bed cannot fall into the babyâs sleep space.
- Do not smoke: People who smoke should never smoke in the house or around the baby.
- Do not use weighted blankets: Avoid using these or similar devices.
- Prevent the baby from overheating: Do not use space heaters or keep the room too warm. Dress the baby in light clothing, rather than heavy fabrics or layers.
- Use a swaddle: Make sure that it is tight at the chest but loose at the hips and knees. However, only use a swaddle before the baby starts rolling onto their side.
- Stop swaddlingonce the baby can roll over: It is important to stop using a swaddle as soon as the baby starts moving on to their side.
- Keep the crib empty: Do not put toys, blankets, pillows, or a bumper in the babyâs sleeping area.
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Key Points On Why Back To Sleep Is Safest:
- Always place baby on the back to sleep and not on the tummy or side. There is an increased risk of sudden unexpected death for babies when they sleep on their tummies and there is a danger of rolling to this position if they are slept on their sides.
- It is important that babies are always placed on the back to sleep. Babies who are usually slept on the back and are placed on the tummy or side for the first time are at an increased risk of sudden unexpected death.
- Once a baby has been observed to repeatedly roll from back to front and back again on their own for several weeks, they can be left to find their preferred sleep position .
- At the critical time of starting to roll it is very important that the sleep environment remains safe
- Babies that can roll should no longer be wrapped
- Babies born preterm should be slept on the back as soon as they are medically stable .
The Most Serious Risk: Sids
Lets get this beast out of the way from the get-go: Putting babies to sleep on their back is definitely safer than sleeping on the tummy. Stomach sleeping increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and suffocation, and its an easy roll from side to stomach gravity means very little effort on babys part.
SIDS is the
- baby is sleeping in the same bed as the parent
- baby is sleeping in a car seat or on a sofa or couch
- parents drink alcohol or misuse drugs
- baby is bottle-fed instead of breastfed
- there are blankets or toys inside the crib or bassinet
Not all of these are within your control and for the ones that arent, you should never feel guilty or let someone shame you for it. Most babies born prematurely do quite well, and a fed baby breast or bottle is a healthy baby.
But that good news is that some of these factors are within your control. First off, the safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your bedroom with you, but in a separate bassinet or crib.
Second, place baby on their back to sleep. Early swaddling is fine preferable, even, since it mimics the safety and security of the womb until your little one can roll over. Then, they need to have their arms free to lower suffocation risk should they roll over onto their tummy.
The risk for SIDS is highest for infants aged
National Institutes of Health a very reliable source with many years of research behind it its a myth that side sleeping can prevent choking while sleeping.
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Place Your Baby On Their Back To Sleep
Place your baby on their back to sleep from the very beginning for both day and night sleeps. This will reduce the risk of cot death.
It’s not as safe for babies to sleep on their side or tummy as on their back. Healthy babies placed on their backs are not more likely to choke.
Once your baby is old enough to roll over, there’s no need to worry if they turn onto their tummy or side while sleeping.
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.
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The Importance Of Routine In Reducing The Risk Of Sids
The best way to make sure your baby sleeps on their back is to do this from day one, and keep putting them to sleep on their backs for every day and night time sleep.
It is also important that you keep the same routine for your baby, as babies who are normally slept on their backs but sometimes slept on their fronts are at a great risk of sudden death.
What To Do If Baby Rolls Onto Stomach While Sleeping
Youve done your part and put baby to sleep on her back. But as every new mom knowsno matter how exhausted you areyou cant help but wake up in the middle of the night to make adjustments should you find baby sleeping on her stomach.
The good news is, depending on babys age, you might not need to do that. If your child is around 6 months old and has good head and trunk control , then its not necessary to turn baby over onto his back, Campbell says.
But not all babies wait until the six-month mark to roll over some as young as 3 or 4 months can turn onto their stomachs while theyre sleeping. If this is the case, Campbell advises gently turning baby onto her back. The following tips can also help keep baby safe throughout the night:
Encourage lots of tummy playtime when hes awake, so he has plenty of practice moving onto his back by himself while youre able to supervise him.
Keep the crib clear of toys and blankets and keep the bedding tight. Loose blankets can increase the risks of SIDS.
Use a firm crib mattress and make sure it meets safety standards.
Stay away from wedges or pillows, Campbell says, unless your pediatrician recommends them .
Remember, once a baby attempts to roll or turn over, its important to stop swaddling the baby, Campbell says.
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Is It Ok For Baby To Sleep On Tummy
And yet, whatever surprising it may be, infants are absolutely not interested in any scientific theories. For decades, they roll over from back to stomach and fall asleep on the stomach as well. Why? Yes, just because they are more comfortable that way! A lot of mothers note that their babies prefer the stomach sleeping position when they have problems with the intestines. On the belly, they have easier gases, the pain goes away, and they fall asleep faster and more comfortable.
Another serious argument that calls into question the immutability of the recommendation for the back sleeping is a marked increase in plagiocephaly among newborns in America. Plagiocephaly is a deformation of the skull that causes the head to look asymmetrical or flattened. It is noteworthy that during the decade of Back to Sleep Campaign, the SIDS mortality rate fell by half to 0.57 deaths per 1000 newborns. At the same time, the number of babies sleeping on their stomach also fell to 11.3% compared to 70% in 1992. However, the number of cases of plagiocephaly has increased at the same progression.
So, the risk of SIDS on the one hand , and a strong restful sleep, less digestive problems, and less concern about the shape of the head on the other that is the choice that parents of newborn babies have to face. As doctors say, each family is to make its own decision. However, they consider it their own duty to warn all the moms and dads about that.
The Back Sleeping Position Is Best For Preterm Babies
Preterm babies are at increased risk for SUDI, including SIDS, compared to full term babies.49-51 Studies in the UK and New Zealand have reported that at least four times as many SIDS infants were born preterm compared to control infants who did not die and these proportional differences have remained unchanged since the introduction of public campaigns for reducing the risks.52-53 The association between the prone sleeping position and SIDS among low birth weight babies is equal to or stronger than that in babies born at term.27 It has been suggested that if the mothers of preterm or low birth weight infants followed the safe sleeping recommendations and all placed their infants supine in a cot by the parental bed, this would potentially reduce the overall SIDS rate by a further 20% 52.
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