Is it safe to let my baby sleep on her stomach?

Rebecca - posted on 06/03/2009 ( 23 moms have responded )

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She seems to be getting the worst sleep in bed. I am sure the pressure against her gassy tummy feels good... but is it safe for me to let her sleep on her stomach?

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Ariel - posted on 06/03/2009

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Well that's a loaded question...

All pediatricians and anyone you ask will probably say no. The Back to Sleep program was instituted between ten and twenty years ago to reduce the instance of SIDS. While it has worked, it has not completely stopped SIDS, just reduced it. I'm not a doctor, but my son wouldn't sleep on his back either. So I took the risk to save us both a lot of misery. He is a belly sleeper, but always on a firm surface with no pillows, blankets or stuffed animals in the crib. Just keep in mind that it is a risk, and most people are pretty condemning about it. But if you ask your mother, or other mothers from the pre-Back to Sleep generations they will probably tell you that they always put their babies to sleep on their stomachs since it makes them feel more secure and the tummy pressure really helps with colic and gas. Another option is to just try some tummy time with you rubbing her back before she falls asleep then flipping her to her back once she's ready to snooze. Swaddling can help them feel more secure on their backs too. Also, dangling over your arm with the heel of your hand in her tummy can offer some counterpressure that can help with gas. SIDS is a frightening prospect, and I was scared as hell to let my son belly sleep, but after watching him nap on his tummy near me a few times I saw him turn his head face down, try to breathe, turn his head to the side and go on sleeping and I was pretty sure that he would be alright. Nobody knows what causes SIDS, but some scientists believe it is a mis-wiring of the brain that makes the baby forget to breathe, or sleep so deeply that they won't wake enough to take a breath. If that's the case it would explain why the SIDS rates have dropped but not gone away completely... safer sleeping helped those babies that really just suffocated but not those that were true SIDS cases and had "mis-wired" brains.



(And now I will get chewed out for this...)

Julie - posted on 08/12/2012

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My baby has been sleeping on his stomach since he came home from the hospital (two weeks old). We co-sleep. I prop myself up a little with pillows and he lays tummy down on my chest. This way I can monitor his breathing and make sure he's ok. We've never had any problems. He's five weeks old now. So as long as your baby can hold her head up or is being monitored by you, I think it's fine.
When he's in his crib he usually sleeps on his side (he did this even at the hospital), he doesn't like sleeping on his back.

Esther - posted on 06/05/2009

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Quoting Kimberly:

why do so many people feel that sleeping on their stomachs is unsafe? Generations before us have let babies sleep whichever way was comfy to them and it didnt do anything to awfully bad or we wouldnt be in existance today. SIDS is an issue of course with infants but its not all because of the positioning while asleep. As mentioned before its more the infant stops breathing on their own. A child could just as easily stop breathing while you are holding them or burping them or just riding in the carseat.



More info for you:



HOW BACKSLEEPING HELPS


Why back-sleeping lowers the risk of SIDS is not completely known, yet here are some possibilities.



1. Back-sleeping babies awaken easier. Arousability from sleep in response to a life-threatening event is a healthy, protective mechanism and one that is thought to be diminished in infants at risk of SIDS. Back-sleepers arouse from sleep more easily and sleep less deeply than tummy-sleepers. Mothers have observed, and research has confirmed, that infants sleep more deeply on their tummies. Yet, sleeping more deeply does not mean sleeping more safely.



2. Back-sleeping babies have a lower chance of getting overheated. Overheating, possibly by interfering with the central nervous system control of breathing, is another risk factor for SIDS. Lying on your back leaves your face and internal organs exposed so that they can radiate heat more readily than when sleeping on your tummy. (That's why when your cold, you probably curl up on your front or side to conserve heat.) Also, front- sleeping babies are more likely to slip down under the covers than those sleeping on their backs, another factor that may contribute to overheating, since a baby's prime avenue for heat loss is through their head and face. In the back position, even the baby who slips down underneath the covers would be more likely to throw them off. The contact of a cover with the face is more likely to be noticed and protested by a back-sleeping baby than the contact of the cover with the back of the head would be in a front-sleeping baby.



3. Back-sleeping babies breathe more oxygen. When sleeping face down, a baby may press her head into the mattress or wiggle her face against a soft object. This can form a pocket of air around her face, leaving her to rebreathe her own exhaled air, which has diminished oxygen.



4. Back-sleeping babies are less likely to suffocate. Conventional wisdom has always taught that suffocation is a rare cause of SIDS. Yes, babies are sturdy little persons who, even as newborns, are able to lift their heads and keep their noses clear to breath. The often quoted "study" that even tiny infants have the ability to lift their heads and wiggle their noses clear of obstruction was not really a scientific study; it was more of an observation. Yet, new insights cast doubt on the rareness of suffocation. A growing belief among SIDS researchers is that many babies presumably diagnosed as SIDS may have in reality died from suffocation on soft surfaces



While no one knows exactly why the front-sleeping position is linked to SIDS, the overwhelming number of studies that all come to the same conclusion – back sleeping decreases the risk of SIDS – make it clear that for healthy infants, back-sleeping is safer. Parents should note that there are some medical conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux or structural abnormalities of the jawbones and airway, in which it is safer for babies to sleep on their tummies rather than on their backs. Be sure to check with your doctor to see whether or not your baby has a medical reason to sleep on his tummy rather than his back.

Kimberly - posted on 06/04/2009

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my daughter prefers to sleep on her tummy and has since she was 2 weeks old. if you hold the baby on your chest to burp and they fall asleep it is no different than letting them sleep on their tummys in bed. just make sure any blankets that are in the bed are below their shoulders. My daughter squirms up so her face is near the bumper pads but she hates to have her face down into the bed and will wake up and scream so i know that she wont end up smothering herself. I only let her sleep belly down during the day at first but now i dont worry about her sleeping that way

Lisa - posted on 09/07/2013

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All 3 of my kids have slept on their tummies and all 3 are alive and well.

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Chels - posted on 09/10/2013

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I put my baby girl on her tummy every time she goes to sleep. She sleeps better and longer on her tummy.

[deleted account]

While now the mantra is "Back to Sleep" I wouldn't go as far as "every intelligent person" says back to sleep because most people have heard that nowadays. If you talk to someone who had kids 20+ years ago (like my mom) peds then said tummy or side because they were worried about the baby spitting up and suffocating. Not sure the "right" answer here since I have a 1 mo old who prefers tummy and we do side mostly. Careful about wording- the purposes of these boards is for people to ask questions and feel safe to do so. Sometimes working whether intended or not can make people feel silly for asking or if their question is dumb. Just something to think about when posting.

Esther - posted on 06/05/2009

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In the first case-control study of SIDS in the U.S. since the "back to sleep" campaign was initiated, researchers in California identified 185 SIDS cases and 312 matched controls and interviewed the parents about sleep position. They found that, compared to the back position, infants put down to sleep prone were 2.6 times more likely to die of SIDS, and those put down on their side were twice as likely to die of SIDS. Of note was the finding that SIDS risk was particularly high (7-9 fold) for an unstable side position (in which infants were placed on their side and found prone) or for an unaccustomed position (infants who were usually placed on their backs but had last been put down in the prone or side position). Indeed, infants placed in an unaccustomed prone or side-sleeping position had a higher risk of SIDS than infants who were always placed prone or on the side.

Esther - posted on 06/05/2009

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This is why people think you should let your baby sleep on their back: "As of 2002, the National Center for Health Statistics reported a more than 50 percent drop in SIDS death rates and a decrease in stomach sleeping from 70 percent to 15 percent - crediting saturation of the Back To Sleep message and the resultant change in parental practice. This is the equivalent of sparing the lives of more than 3,500 American babies each year." The sleeping on their back is not just because of suffocation risk. Researchers are still not 100% sure of why sleeping on their backs has reduced SIDS by such large percentage, but there is definitely a connection.

Kimberly - posted on 06/05/2009

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why do so many people feel that sleeping on their stomachs is unsafe? Generations before us have let babies sleep whichever way was comfy to them and it didnt do anything to awfully bad or we wouldnt be in existance today. SIDS is an issue of course with infants but its not all because of the positioning while asleep. As mentioned before its more the infant stops breathing on their own. A child could just as easily stop breathing while you are holding them or burping them or just riding in the carseat.

Sarah - posted on 06/05/2009

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swaddling is FAB!! i can't praise the swaddle enough!! my youngest started sleeping on her tummy at about 5 months, i'd put her down on her back but when i'd go to check her later, she'd be on her tummy. i left her to it, as couldn't see myself turning her back over all through the night!! it is recommended to lay them on their backs tho. :)

Amie - posted on 06/05/2009

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my son never complains about sleeping on his back and has slept through the night since six weeks (extremely lucky mommy!) so I don't have any expertise on this. Just thought I'd throw in the mix that once babies roll over they usually decide to sleep on their tummies anyway....so if that's the way your babe is happy then it's probably okay on a firm mattress with no plush items in the crib to block breathing.

Esther - posted on 06/05/2009

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If she's not rolling over yet, you can also try swaddling her. The miracle blanket is fantastic for that. The swaddle will also apply some pressure to her tummy which will help with the gas, in addition to it often helping babies sleep more comfortably and actually reducing the risk of SIDS (whereas putting her on her tummy will increase that).

Mel - posted on 06/05/2009

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yes as long as baby can lift her head up. can she roll over by herself? i never felt comfortable doing it and freaked even when my little one was 12 months and i would walk in and she would be asleep on her tummy but that is just me. whatever your feel comfortable with is ok i know many mums who say their kids would on sleep on their tummies from birth. mine slept on her tummy when she was on my chest of course but not otherwise. if i had a baby that was difficult to get to sleep i would most likely reconsider my decision to keep her on her back. my cousins son died of SIDS at 6 weeks but alot of the time it is not because they are on their tummy its just because they stop breathing for whatever reason.

Bridget - posted on 06/04/2009

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Every hospital ever book every intelligent person I have spoken or read from says put babies to sleep on thier back. I think the fact the question is being asked is enough to know its not good!

Kathleen - posted on 06/04/2009

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We generally did not put our son on his tummy to sleep. We tried everything with the gas issues...we finally were told by the pediatrician to go ahead and give them the baby gas drops...ONLY the ones with JUST smithicone in it.
He started sleeping on his stomach on his own and it wasn't till after he was 4 months I believe. He flipped himself into that position and that is when we just gave up and let him do it. We did make sure there wasn't anything in his crib then that could hurt him.

Tatham - posted on 06/04/2009

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as long as your baby is able to lift her head up...its fine..my son is now 6 months and he has been sleeping on his tummy since he was about 2 months old. i find that i get longer periods of sleep out of him that way

Samantha - posted on 06/03/2009

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eh i put my LO on his belly just make sure you dont have any bumpers or other loose stuff around I figure we will both be happier if he sleeps on his back he gets a better sleep and i get more sleep

Amy - posted on 06/03/2009

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Hey Rebecca! generally everyone tells me it's not safe for babies to sleep on their bellies. SIDS is the problem. there r a lot of other things u can do for gassy bellies. and they even sell wraps and special "seats" that the baby can sleep in that help with that. both of my girls were side and back sleepers.

Rayna - posted on 06/03/2009

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We started putting our daughter down on her belly at 6 weeks. She is now a year old We made sure she didn't have any blankets or loose clothing she could grab and suffocate herself with. That's when she started sleeping for more than 6 hours at a time :) Best of luck!

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