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Is It Safe to Let Your Baby Sleep on Tummy?

Your baby’s safe sleeping habits during his/her first year play a vital role as sleep is needed for his/her growth, mental development, and immune system. Correct sleeping positions positively contribute to a conducive environment for your baby.

Putting Your Baby to Sleep on Tummy
The first year of a baby’s life is usually the most fragile because they are susceptible to infection and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

SIDS risk is highest at 2-4 months old and remains a threat till the 12th month. Sleeping on the tummy during the first months of a baby’s life is ruled as one of the causes of SIDS.

Experts believe that when babies sleep on their stomach, they breathe in and breathe out with less oxygen and excess carbon dioxide. This can reduce the functionality of the lungs, thereby leading to SIDS.

The safest sleeping position for infants is placing them on their back. According to experts, back sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS.

Sleeping on the back strengthens the respiratory system and allows newborns to breathe in more oxygen, thus reducing SIDS risk.

Back to Sleep Campaign
In 1994, the US government launched a Back to Sleep Campaign to enlighten parents on the importance of placing their babies on their back. The campaign had successfully reduced the SIDS rate to 50%. According to a study published in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, back sleeping lowers the occurrence of ear infections and fever.

What Should I Do When My Baby Rolls from His/Her Back to His/Her Stomach?
If your baby rolls over his stomach, it is all right to let him/her stay that way. Babies at a particular developmental stage are at reduced risk of SIDS. If your baby can roll over, it means they can protect themselves from the risk of tummy sleeping. However, do not actively place your babies to sleep on their stomachs in their first year.

The ABCs of Safe Sleeping
The American Academy of Pediatrics in 2016 recommended some sleep guidelines to reduce SIDS in babies. These recommendations can be summarized as ABC;

• A stands for Alone (keep all objects like toys, blankets, pillows away).
• B means to place them on their Backs.
• And C for putting them in a Crib.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also said that babies must sleep in a shared room without bed-sharing. That is, place your baby in his/her crib situated in your bedroom where you can monitor them.

1) Changing Concepts of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Implications for Infant Sleeping Environment and Sleep Position. Pediatrics. 2000;105;650.

2) Progress In Reducing SIDS. National Institutes of Health Website. Last accessed May 10, 2021.

3) Hunt CE, Lesko SM, Vezina RM, et al. Infant Sleep Position and Associated Health Outcomes. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(5):469–474.

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