Until babies are rolling on their own, you should always put babies to sleep on their backs.
Photo by Dreamstine.com
By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
I have been seeing online ads promoting "new" baby products for 2017. What concerns me is that in those ads an infant is shown sleeping on their tummy, which doesn't promote recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that say all infants should be placed on their backs to fall asleep.
There should be a "law" that you cannot shoot a picture for any product being advertised for an infant in which the baby is shown sleeping in the prone position. Seeing this photo may only confuse parents about the correct sleep position for their baby, especially when many of the advertisements are for sleep-related products.
The "Back to Sleep" campaign, which started in 1994, has served to reduce the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by more than 50 percent. I have been fortunate in that I have not had a patient of mine die from SIDS since the recommendation for sleep position was changed. Unfortunately, when looking at data, 30 percent of SIDS cases report that the baby was found in the prone (tummy) position.
So, if a sleep-deprived new parent is surfing the net for products related to infant sleep, and then sees a baby on their tummy, the parent may think that maybe that is the trick to get their baby to sleep, never realizing the huge risk they are taking. Many a parent has come into my office and said, "I think my baby sleeps better on their tummy," which immediately puts a look of horror on my face.
"WHAT? I thought we had discussed that your baby must sleep on their back until they are rolling over on their own."
Some of the parents do reply, "So and so told me it was OK." In this case, do not listen to anyone about tummy sleeping! Discuss car seats, high chairs, pacifier options or whatever else instead, and choose which works for you. Sleep position is non-negotiable.
With that being said, I realize that between 4 months old and 7 months old many babies will roll over during sleep even when placed on their backs. It is a developmental milestone for babies to roll, and you cannot put a brick on them.
I would "guesstimate" that about 25 percent of the babies I see will ultimately prefer to sleep on their tummies, but they are all out of their swaddle and then roll over after being put down on their back. I also get many videos showing me a baby in their crib who is in the act of rolling over, with a nervous parent running in turning them back over, only to have the child roll right back to their tummy. You could spend the entire night "flipping the baby" over.
Remember: back sleeping only, in a crib with just the baby. No bumpers or toys. You will have plenty of time for other stuff in the crib when they are bigger.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. "The Kid's Doctor" TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid's Doctor e-book, "Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today's Teen," is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.
Printed in the March 5, 2017 - March 18, 2017 edition.