Depending on what era you raised your babies in, you may have varying ideas on what position a baby should sleep in. It can be tough to keep up with the current recommendations in all areas of child rearing. Nevertheless, it is important to know what current scientific research shows. In regards to babies and their sleep, why shouldn’t they sleep on their stomachs?
SIDS and the Back to Sleep Campaign
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Back to Sleep Campaign, now known as the “Safe to Sleep” campaign, was launched in the 1990s. It was created in an effort to reduce the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is defined as “the death of a seemingly healthy baby in its sleep, due to an apparent spontaneous cessation of breathing.”
Studies claim that SIDS rates have dropped by half since the campaign started. The advice not to let a baby sleep on their stomach has been in place since that time.
Carbon Dioxide versus Oxygen
The exact reason why stomach sleeping may increase the risk of SIDS is not entirely understood. One theory indicates that tummy sleeping may lead to SIDS because babies can re-breathe the carbon dioxide they exhale, and that eventually this builds up in the baby’s system and decreases oxygen levels.
Obstruction of the Upper Airways
It is also wondered whether by sleeping on their stomachs, a baby’s upper airways can be obstructed. When they are too young to move their own body, it may put them in a dangerous position with no way out.
Another theory about the risks of stomach sleeping in regards to SIDS is overheating caused by interference to body heat dissipation. Overheating can also be caused by too much clothing or bedding, so be sure to keep your baby lightly covered only.
Babies who sleep on their stomachs sleep more heavily. They are less reactive to noise, experience less movement, have higher arousal thresholds, and have longer periods of deep sleep. It seems that the night-waking that we as parents find exhausting, may be beneficial and healthy for our little ones.
Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
When comparing infants who sleep on their stomachs as opposed to those who sleep on their backs, some observations were made. Infants who slept on their stomachs experienced sudden decreases in blood pressure and heart rate control. It is wondered if this may have a link with SIDS.
What about Side Sleeping?
Many people wonder if side sleeping is a viable alternative. The answer, unfortunately, is no. In a side sleeping position, a baby can easily roll onto his or her belly. Putting a baby on his back is the safest way to avoid the potential dangers of stomach sleeping.
Concerns about Back Sleeping
Many parents have concerns about putting their baby to sleep on his back. One of these concerns is whether the child could choke on his vomit in this position. However, there is no increased incidence of aspiration as healthy babies naturally cough up or swallow fluids.
Science tells us that the safest position for our babies to sleep is on their backs. The evidence points to decreased risk of SIDS and there are several theories to back up why this could be. Take a look at the above points and likely you will be reminded why having your baby sleep on his back is the best way for both him and you to get the best sleep possible.