Before we get to the good stuff, we want to note that sleep support is only intended for full-term healthy babies. Medical diagnoses or prematurity can greatly impact sleep and change what you can reasonably expect from your little one. Sleep is a highly individual process, and we encourage you to reach out to your pediatric provider or a sleep professional for support as needed.
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 drastically reduces the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, often known as SIDS.
SIDS is one of the top 5 causes of death for babies under age one. However, the SIDS rate has declined by 50% since experts began recommending that parents place babies on their backs to sleep for every nap and overnight. While experts do not know exactly what causes SIDS, in addition to genetic predisposition, there may also be airway and awareness changes that make it harder for babies on their stomachs to get enough oxygen.
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 or spitting up, and leaving baby in a stomach down position is far more dangerous. If your newborn has a condition that forces them to remain on their stomachs, consult your 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 their back, it is important to avoid soft surfaces like pillows and comforters, stuffed toys, loose clothing, crib bumpers or any other potentially loose item (like mittens or hats) which can block the airway. A firm crib mattress covered by a tightly fitted sheet is the safest bedding for an infant, even if it seems empty in there! The AAP recommends that infants should be sleeping in their sleep space alone as well.
Parents and caregivers should place infants on their backs for every sleep. Once a baby can roll into their preferred sleep position, you do not need to reposition them as SIDS becomes far less of a risk.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- “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.