Times have changed. My mother was told to lay me on my stomach when she put me down for sleep. This was mainly due to babies tend to sleep better on their stomachs, are less likely to startle and will often sleep through the night sooner. There is also the added benefit of your infant being less likely to choke on spit-up or vomit if sleeping on her stomach.
Stomach vs Back Sleeping
Now sometime in the early 90’s, in an effort to reduce the risk of SIDS, pediatrician’s began recommending that infants under the age 6th months be placed on their backs to sleep. The thought was that some babies, for unknown reasons, have an abnormality in their brain stem.
These affected infants either do not have or have not fully developed the trigger to turn their head or move a blanket or pillow off of their face. If a baby with this abnormality finds herself face down in the mattress she may not turn her head to get clean air.
These poor babies just rebreathe their own carbon dioxide. Also, this abnormality can still be found in infants with exceptional head control and great neck and upper body strength. Since these babies do not attempt to breathe fresh oxygen and continue to breathe in their own exhaled CO2 their need to breathe is suppressed and they pass away in their sleep.
Since there is no known way to determine if a baby possesses this abnormal brain stem and even if your baby is turning her head if she is rolling over she has a very increased risk of SIDS or asphyxia. This factor is even higher if your swaddle your infant.
Can You Have The Best Of Both Worlds?
I would never recommend not swaddling a newborn and sleeping her on her back. However, there are some things you can do to ease your mind should your child be a tosser and turner and struggle against being swaddled. Breathable crib mattresses have come a long way and studies show they provide a significant reduction to a child’s risk of asphyxiation while asleep.
Allowing air to circulate around the baby helps reduce overheating, another known risk factor of SIDS, as well as reducing the CO2 levels around a baby who is sleeping with her face buried in the mattress by allowing fresh clean air to be pulled through the breathable material.
If you have a newborn and are worried about her rolling over during sleep I urge you to check out my full reviews of the best cribs and crib mattresses and my complete list of baby essentials! Both you and your little one will sleep better for it!