Health experts do not recommend babies sleep on their stomachs at any time of the day. One of the reasons behind it is that it can block a baby’s airway and obstruct the body’s ability to disperse heat which eventually leads to overheating and can cause Sudden Infant Death.
Being a parent can be tough, we get you! Following up with the dos and don’ts, the extra care for the tiny newborns can be overwhelming. You might ask your neighbors, parents, and elders for the best possible advice and one of the most conflicting pieces of advice for you as a new parent could be whether your baby can or cannot sleep on their stomach.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) suggest that the best sleeping position for babies is on their backs as it reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
In the past, babies were put to sleep on their stomachs. This was due to the belief that it would make them feel more secure. However, this is not the case. Babies should be put to sleep on their backs.
The AAP also advises parents to avoid letting their babies sleep on their stomachs because this increases the risk of SIDS. The National Library of Medicine claims that almost 49% of babies who die due to SID are found to be sleeping on their tummies.
Some parents may feel that it’s easier for them to put their babies down when they are sleepy and do not think straight. It can be difficult for new parents to get into a routine and find time for themselves, so they may not want to spend time trying to figure out how they should put the baby down.
New mothers need to understand the fact that sleeping positions that work for other babies might not be the best for their children. Every baby is different; some sleep soundly on their stomachs and are more comfortable that way while some babies may feel suffocated sleeping on their stomachs.
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4 Best Sleeping Recommendations for Babies
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best sleeping positions recommendations for babies are:
#1: On their Backs:
The AAP first recommended back sleeping in 1992, when the incidence of SIDS was at its peak. It is important for babies to sleep on their backs so that they don’t choke on their own spit-up or vomit.
#2: Firm Surface:
In the last few decades, many parents have been told that babies should sleep on a firm surface rather than a fluffy one. The logic was that this would help to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The idea behind this is that if an infant’s airways are blocked by something soft, like a pillow or blanket, they can’t breathe. This is called “rebreathing” and it can lead to SIDS.
#3: Close to the parents:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies sleep in the same room as their parents for at least six months, but not in the same bed. This allows parents to monitor their baby’s breathing and movement.
#4: Keeping soft objects away:
In addition to back sleeping, the AAP advises against putting soft objects or loose bedding in an infant’s sleep area or stuffed animals and that babies sleep on their back or side with nothing else in the crib.
A baby’s sleeping position can have a significant impact on their sleep quality. The debate on whether or not babies should sleep on their stomachs is an ongoing one. It has been a topic of discussion for many years with no definitive answer to the question.
Let’s dig into the pros and cons of a baby sleeping on the stomach and then we’ll let you decide what suits best for YOUR kid!
7 Pros of Baby Sleeping on Stomach
This is quite a rare position to be safe, but some doctors still suggest parents let their babies sleep on their stomachs. This can help strengthen their neck, back, and stomach. It helps build upper body strength to lift heads off the ground at a faster pace.
Babies usually have a natural instinct to turn onto their tummies when they are trying to self-soothe themselves to fall asleep. This is because the baby’s back and neck muscles are not fully developed yet and it can be difficult for them to turn over onto their backs.
However, tummy time is still generally preferred when the baby is awake.
At about four to five months, the baby develops motor skills and can roll over the stomach. Babies lying on their bellies while awake after six months of age have their benefits.
2. Helps in breathing:
Sleeping on the tummy may help babies to breathe better while sleeping. Babies are able to take in more oxygen when they are sleeping this way. Babies don’t have the same muscle tone as adults, so when they sleep on their backs, the air passages in their throats can get blocked by the soft tissue and muscles that surround them.
3. Better Eyesight:
It’s a natural way for more robust eye development and greater eyesight. Babies who sleep on their stomachs are more likely to develop better eyesight as they age, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers found that infants who slept on their stomachs for at least six months were about 50% less likely to need glasses compared with babies who slept on their backs or sides.
4. Helps in Crawling:
Tummy time strengthens the neck muscles that prepare a child to crawl. This is because babies are able to support their head and neck better when they sleep on their stomachs. This is not possible when they sleep on the back or side. It also strengthens the core and the spinal column shape which would eventually help in crawling.
5. Enhances Gross Motor Development:
A baby sleeping on the stomach can be a great advantage for the child’s gross motor development.
This is because it forces them to use their head, neck, and upper body strength to turn in order to breathe. This means that they are using more of their muscles and this increases the chances of them developing stronger muscles in these areas.
6. Reduces Acid Reflux:
Some parents worry about their baby’s acid reflux when they sleep on their back or stomach, but there are ways to reduce this risk. One of these ways is by placing a pillow under their stomach while they sleep on their stomach. This will help keep the acid in the stomach and not allow it to come up into the esophagus where it can cause pain and discomfort.
7. Feel Secure:
Babies feel more secure, and comfortable when they are sleeping on their stomachs and are less likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
A study also found that when parents slept with a baby on their stomachs, they were more likely to experience disrupted and less restful sleep.
Babies also tend to sleep on their side and it also has some pros and cons READ HERE for more information about side sleeping.
5 Cons of Baby Sleeping on Stomach
1. Increases Risk of SIDS:
Studies suggest that babies sleeping on their tummies may increase the risk of SIDS due to various reasons such as;
- Obstruct with body heat dissipation causing overheating.
- The baby re-breathes his own exhaled breath which can cause a build-up of carbon dioxide and low oxygen levels.
The first few months for a baby are fragile and require proper care and supervision. Letting your baby sleep on the stomach can be dangerous during the first few months.
2. Leads to Re-breathing:
Do not let the baby sleep on their stomach as it can lead to re-breathing of air that causes a lack of oxygen and increases the risk of SIDS. It can restrict breathing if the baby buries his nose into the mattress or any object lying around.
3. Causes Allergies or Suffocation:
It can cause babies to breathe microbes from the mattress, causing allergies or suffocation.
This is because the baby’s nose and mouth are covered, which prevents them from breathing properly. It also means that they have a higher chance of developing an allergy to something in their environment.
4. Obstructs Breathing:
When a baby sleeps on the stomach, it might pressurize the lungs, leading to disturbed constriction and expansion and obstructing breathing.
5. Cannot Monitor Baby’s Breathing:
When babies sleep on their stomachs, they can easily get their faces smothered by their pillows. The infant cannot be monitored to make sure that they are breathing and their airways are open. This position can also lead to suffocation or asphyxiation.
After six months, there is a reduced risk of SIDS, so it’s suitable if babies switch positions according to their comfort.
But, make it a habit for babies to sleep on their backs to reduce even a slight risk of SIDS.
Below are some tips and recommendations that you can follow to avoid any mishap.
- The baby’s head should be turned towards one side in order to keep their airways open and prevent any choking, which may occur if they are sleeping with their head turned towards the other side.
- It is also important for parents to avoid sleeping with their babies on a couch or armchair because these surfaces are not as supportive as a crib or bassinet and can cause suffocation.
- Give your baby a pacifier when they are going to sleep as sucking on a pacifier can reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Use a firm mattress with a tight-fitting sheet and no pillows, comforters, or heavy blankets.
Although the pros of a baby sleeping on the stomach are more, we would still suggest you not let your baby fall asleep or roll onto its stomach while sleeping. Even a slight chance of SIDS means you might be risking the precious life of your infant.
While sleeping on the back is a suggested practice, no bedtime position can be 100% safe until your baby has developed strong motor skills.
Make it a practice to lie your baby on their back while sleeping. You can lie the baby in a prone position while your child is awake.
Make sure you are around so that the baby doesn’t bury the nose into something leading to risks of SIDS.
Adding to another sleepless night, keep checking your baby’s sleeping positions and turn the direction if your child feels uncomfortable in their current sleeping or lying position.