Your baby needs to be sleeping on his/her back.

Getting a new baby to sleep is one of the most important things for any parent to do. Sleep for a new baby is connected with a variety of positive outcomes, including growth, mood, cognitive development and more.

However, how a child sleeps is almost important as the amount that a child sleeps, and on this front, researchers are virtually unanimous: It is vitally important to keep your baby sleeping on their back.

In this article, we’ll take a look at:

  • Why it’s so important to have a baby sleep on their back
  • How to keep a sleeping baby on his back
  • What if my child rolls over?
  • How to monitor your baby’s sleep

Why it’s so important to have a baby sleep on their back

Simply put, a baby sleeping on their back is a safer baby, and a baby less likely to die prematurely. A child sleeping on their back is more likely to have normal “arousal” symptoms, which will allow a baby to wake up and resume normal breathing patterns during standard episodes of sleep apnea. Additionally, babies who sleep on their back have less fevers and less nasal congestion. Parents need not worry about a child who sleeps on their back choking: A baby’s airway remains clear when they are sleeping on their backs, and their gag reflex works to help ensure that.

Most importantly, a baby sleeping on their back will protect their health. A baby sleeping on their back is far less likely to die of SIDS.

What is SIDS?

SIDS stands for “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” and it is every parents worst nightmare. While much about the disease is not yet understood, research have pinpointed a few risk factors which can enhance your child’s risk of dying due to SIDS. One of those risk factors is sleeping on their stomach. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important to keep your baby sleeping on their back.

The risk of a baby dying of SIDS is greatest for the first six months of a baby’s life, but continues until the baby is a year old. As such, let’s be as clear about this as possible: Keeping your baby sleeping on their back will keep them alive.

How to keep a sleeping baby on his back

It’s very important that you keep a baby sleeping on their back, and there are a variety of ways to do so. These include:

  • Swaddle your baby in order to increase their sense of comfort and security.
  • Use a firm mattress which will prevent your baby from sinking too much. Never allow your baby to sleep on any other surface.
  • Make sure that the temperature is comfortable and that the child is dressed appropriately for the room.
  • Give your baby a pacifier to sleep, but don’t force the child to suckle it if they don’t want it. Additional research shows that giving a baby a pacifier may reduce SIDS deaths.

Never, under any circumstances, should you allow your baby to sleep in the same bed as an adult. Doing so only risks the baby’s life in the event that the adult rolls over in their sleep.

Keep the crib clear

For newborn babies, a crib should be kept as clear as possible. This means no positioners, stuffed animals, pillows, blankets or anything that could potentially pose a suffocation risk. Do not, under any circumstances, place anything in a crib which could obstruct a baby’s breathing. Remember, babies do not have the strength or coordination to remove obstructions if something gets in their face. As such, anything you put in the crib could suffocate a baby, or increase its risk of SIDS.

The goal of a crib is not for decoration. It’s to keep a child sleeping on their back.

What if my child rolls over?

Children typically learn how to roll over between four to six months, just when their risk of dying of SIDS is starting to peak. But, there’s good news here: Babies who roll over have a decreased likelihood for SIDS. You should continue to put your child to sleep on their back, but if the child rolls over, that’s fine. You do not need to adjust a child who has rolled over onto their side.

Why children who roll over have reduced risk of dying of SIDS?

Again, SIDS is an area where more research is needed, and one which doctors still do not fully understand. However, from the research done, doctors believe that babies who die of SIDS often suffer from sleep apnea. Babies who are old enough to roll over have a better physical sense of when they need to move, and the ability to do so. As such, babies who can roll over on their own have a significantly reduced risk of dying as a result of SIDS.

However: Researchers still recommend that, when you put your baby to sleep, you place your baby sleeping on their back. While SIDS decreases as a child gets older, risk does not completely disappear until the child is one year old. At that time, SIDS risk does disappear, and it is safe to allow a child to sleep on their stomach. Until then, put your child to bed sleeping on their back.

How to monitor your baby’s sleep

The American SIDS institute recommends that a child sleep in their parents room until the age of six months – and ideally, up to a year – in order to ensure that a child is sleeping and breathing well. This is the best way to keep your baby close, learn their sleeping and breathing patterns, and be alerted if there is ever some sort of problem which requires your immediate attention. Thankfully, there is no shortage of travel cribs available which can be used to ensure that your children get a good night’s sleep, no matter where they go.

That being said, be warned: Wherever you travel, make sure that the same rules which apply to your baby’s crib (keep the crib clear, make sure its surface is firm, etc) apply to the travel crib as well. Even in the travel crib, a put your child to bed so the baby is sleeping on their back.

Baby monitors can help, but you can’t rely on them

There are no shortage of baby monitors available to monitor a baby sleeping on their back. Some monitors are audio only and some add visual and motion detection, which can then be tracked on a separate device or a phone. Some monitors sell themselves as being able to track a child’s heart rate or breathing patterns, and say they are able to alert parents to a potential problem. However, some experts recommend against these monitors, as they say that they cause needless worry, many false alarms and overstate the danger of losing a child to SIDS. There are situations in which these monitors are needed, no doubt, but these are usually confined to medically fragile children who have breathing problems or need oxygen. Additionally, there is no evidence which directly links these monitors to a reduction in SIDS deaths.

Remember, there are many things you can do to reduce your child’s SIDS risk. Top among them? Put them to bed so your baby is sleeping on their back.

Conclusion

Making sure your baby sleeps on their back is vital for their health, can ease their comfort and keeps them alive. Thankfully, there are things you can do which can encourage your child to sleep on their back. As a parent or caregiver, that responsibility is on you.

If all else fails, consult your pediatrician to make sure that your child doesn’t have any physical issues which may prevent them from sleeping comfortably on their back. Difficult though it may be – particularly for fussy babies or babies who have acid reflux – it is important for a baby’s health that you work to keep the baby sleeping on their back.