SIDS Part 2: The Six Most Frequently Asked Questions
Hey everyone, this is the second of a two-part post (see SIDS Part 1: Eight Lifesaving Sleeping Baby Sleep Tips that Reduce the Risk of SIDS) that I wrote about SIDS. SIDS is horrible and scary. But if you understand what puts your baby at risk then you can make safe, informed decisions about your baby’s sleep.
Six FAQ’s about SIDS
These are the six most frequently asked questions and concerns about SIDS that parents have asked me.
- If my baby is sleeping on her back all of the time, how do I prevent her from getting a flat spot on the back of her head?
This is a genuine concern. Babies get flat spots. We have all seen babies when we are out and about with those cute helmets on their heads that help to round out the flat spot. But there are a lot of ways to prevent flat spots.
- Tummy time. Put your baby on her tummy when she is awake and supervised. Get her a tummy time mat or put blankets and a few toys down for her to play with or look at. At first, your baby may not like it, but if you gradually increase the
amount of time that she spends on her tummy she will enjoy it more and more. Tummy time increases your baby’s arm, shoulder, and abdominal strength and prepares them for rolling over and sitting up.
- Minimize the time that your baby spends in car seats, swings or bouncers and hold your baby. I so often see infants being carried everywhere while strapped in their car seat. While I totally know this is convenient, it is not helpful for preventing a flat spot. Occasionally when you get to Target put your baby in a front carrier. 🙂
- Alternate which end of the crib you put your baby’s head. This will allow her to have a different view and will encourage her to put pressure on both sides of her head.
- Similarly, you can move the crib around the room every so often. Again, this will give your baby new views of the room!
- Can my baby choke if she spits-up or throws-up while lying on her back to sleep?
Studies have shown that there is no evidence that babies have a higher risk of choking from throwing up or spitting up while laying on their back versus their tummy. Babies actually may be at lower risk due to the anatomy of the airway and esophagus. I have heard several older (like grandma, older) moms with this concern.
- What can I say if my mom, grandma, or daycare provider wants to put my baby on her tummy to sleep because “my baby slept this way and she slept better or longer”?
JUST SAY NO. I am sure that your mom/grandma/daycare provider did put their own child to bed on their tummy (hopefully only before 1994!) and this is just what they did. But what they didn’t know was it increased their baby’s risk of SIDS. And two times more babies died before 1994 when they discovered that back sleeping reduced the risk of SIDS. Putting a baby who usually sleeps on their back onto their tummy to sleep greatly INCREASES their risk of dying of SIDS. Personally, I always just slipped it into the conversation if I was leaving my baby with someone else, reminding them that my son needed to sleep on his back. Sometimes this is a tough conversation. But hold firm. It is far better for there to be a bit of an awkward conversation than to regret it if something happened.
- What if my baby is rolling from her back to her tummy after I put lay her down?
This is probably the most popular question. It is totally fine to let them be if they roll onto their tummy. Just be sure to put her to bed on her back initially. Once they can start rolling over, their risk of dying of SIDS has been greatly reduced. I know this is worrisome, but really, it is ok to let them sleep on their tummy ONLY if they rolled onto it themselves! Once a baby learns to roll it can be impossible to keep them on their backs. You would have to put them on their backs a hundred times a night! Again, ALWAYS put them down on their back.
- My baby breastfeeds constantly at night. Can’t I just have her sleep in the bed next to me?
UGH. This is such a hard question and I have a few thoughts about this. The recommendation from all medical authorities is that it is safest for your baby to sleep by themselves in a separate sleeping location from you. So this is also my official recommendation.
That being said…
I would be lying if I told you that my baby never slept in the same bed with me. I breastfed both of my babies (my second one exclusively) and I was also exhausted. If you make the decision to have your baby sleep in the same bed as you make sure no one else is sleeping with you. Do NOT ever have your baby in bed with you if you have been drinking, doing drugs, or taking any medication that may make you drowsy. Always put your baby to sleep on her back. Make sure that there are no blankets or pillows anywhere near your baby, and make sure that your mattress is firm and the sheet is pulled tight. Also, make sure that there is no way that your baby could roll off. To sum it up, realize that your baby sleeping in bed with you puts your baby at higher risk of SIDS or other accidental death (such as rolling on your baby), so use every safety precaution.
The better option would be for you to purchase a pack ’n play, bassinet or co-sleeper that you can put right next to your bed and that you can reach your baby to pick her up and put her back easily. I used a pack and play with a bassinet feature with my oldest son and the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper with my younger son. I preferred (loved!!!) the Co-Sleeper and even though it was a little expensive I would purchase it again a million times over.
- I have heard that babies sleep better on their tummy. Isn’t this what we all want?
Yes, I think we can all agree that we want our babies to sleep. Sometimes, probably more than anything else! And babies do tend to sleep more soundly on their tummies. But this isn’t necessarily good. First of all, babies will get used to sleeping well on their back if they are always put on their back to sleep. Secondly, babies waking up at night is a protective mechanism. If a baby sleeps too soundly they are at a greater risk of SIDS. Infants should also be waking up at least once at night to eat.
On the other hand, there is some research that suggests that babies who sleep on their back have fewer ear infections, fevers, and stuffy noses.
To sum it up…this is a ton of information! To sum it all up, remember the most important parts. The single most important thing that you can do to reduce your child’s risk of dying of SIDS is to put her to sleep on her back. Also, remember the ABC’s of safe sleep. Have her sleep Alone, on her Back and in a Crib (or other safe location). SIDS is so scary but with knowledge of how to create a safe sleep environment, we can do our part to protect our baby’s the best that we can.
Please leave a comment if you would like. If you found this information helpful, please share it. And if you have a comment, question, or post idea, feel free to email me here.