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American SIDS Institute
528 Raven Way
Naples, Florida 34110
Phone: 239-431-5425
Fax: 239-431-5536

 

 

 

But my baby doesn't like sleeping on his back. Can't I let him sleep on his tummy?

response by
Betty McEntire, PhD, Executive Director, American SIDS Institute

 

 

 

Answer:

It's hard to know for sure what babies like since they can't tell us. However, babies do tend to cry more when placed on their backs. In fact, for many "hard to soothe" infants, placing them on their stomachs does seem to calm them and help them fall to sleep. Also, babies wake less when on their stomachs and it takes more stimulation to wake them than when they are on their backs. Another thing we know is that tummy-sleeping infants retain more heat than when on their backs.

But should parents give in and place their little ones on their tummies? They should certainly not! Infants are more likely to have apnea (pauses in breathing) when on their stomachs. They are also more likely to re-breathe the air they have just exhaled, which can raise their levels of carbon dioxide. The increased retention of body heat can also be dangerous for some infants. But more convincing than any other fact is that belly-sleep has up to 12.9 times the risk of death as back-sleep*.

 

Stomach-sleep

Back-sleep

Cries more

 

X

Wakes more

 

X

Harder to arouse

X

 

More likely to over-heat

X

 

Re-breaths more

X

 

Increases carbon dioxide

X

 

Has more apnea

X

 

Spits up more

same

same

More likely to choke

same

same

Greater risk of SIDS death

X

 

 

 

 


* Changing concepts of sudden infant death syndrome: implications for infant sleeping environment and sleep position. American Academy of Pediatrics. Task Force on Infant Sleep Position and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Pediatrics 2000 Mar;105(3 Pt 1):650-656.

 

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