A baby sleeping on back.
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Baby’s sleep position

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all healthy infants be put down to sleep on their backs, not their sides or stomachs.

Why should babies sleep on their backs?

This is the safest position to sleep for the first year of life, since it has been found to drastically reduce the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, often known as SIDS.

SIDS is responsible for more infant deaths in the United States than any other condition. However, the SIDS rate declined by 50% since doctors began recommending the back sleep position. While doctors do not know exactly what causes SIDS, they believe that infants who sleep on their stomachs get less oxygen than those who sleep on their backs, and babies who sleep on their stomach have an increased risk of blocking their airway in their sleep.

Doctors used to believe that if babies slept on their backs, if they were to vomit, it could cause dangerous blocked airways. Doctors later discovered that babies have little difficulty turning their heads while sick, and leaving the baby in a stomach down position is far more dangerous. If your newborn has a condition forcing them to remain on their stomachs, consult her pediatrician or family doctor about safe sleep positions. Infants who sleep on their backs are also less susceptible to ear infections, fevers, and stuffy noses.

Even if your newborn is sleeping on her back during sleep, it is important to avoid soft surfaces like pillows and comforters, and even stuffed toys, for the time being, which can block the airway. A firm crib mattress covered by a tightly fitted sheet is the safest bedding for an infant.

The general rule is that infants should be placed on their backs until they are able to roll over on their own, at which point SIDS becomes far less of a risk.

  • “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About SIDS and Safe Infant Sleep.” National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web.
  • “Sleep Position: Why Back is Best.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
  • “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 3 2016. Web.

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