Your little one’s first year is full of milestones that can be confusing to a new mother. One important milestone is tummy sleeping. Moms are always concerned about when babies can safely sleep on their stomachs.
The risk of tummy sleeping: SIDS
Stomach sleeping is a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the sudden unexplained death of a baby younger than one without a known cause. It’s the most common cause of death for infants between the ages of 1 and 12 months. SIDS happens in 90% of the cases before a baby is six months old.
Researchers are yet to find a confirmed link between stomach sleeping and SIDS. However, some studies suggest that it is related to upper airway problems such as obstruction which can happen when babies breathe their own exhaled breath back in. This causes carbon dioxide to build up and oxygen to drop. Specifically, preterm infants are at increased risk of SIDS.
What is SUID?
Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) is defined as death in infants younger than 12 months of age. It includes – but is not limited to – SIDS. Other sleep-related infant deaths occur due to accidental suffocation due to one of these factors:
- Sleeping on soft surfaces like sofas or chairs
- Sleeping with soft loose beddings or blankets
- Exposure to smoking
- Co-sleeping with an adult
Benefits of tummy sleeping
Although we already agreed that stomach sleeping has many risks, it also benefits babies. The rule is to allow it during playtime and to be supervised by an adult. It’s advisable that a baby gets 30 minutes (divided) daily of tummy sleeping. Benefits for babies include:
- Strengthening neck and shoulder muscles for rolling, sitting up, crawling, and eventually walking
- Development of motor skills
- Prevention of development of flat spots on the back of the head
Tips for tummy time
- Spread out a blanket in a clear area of the floor.
- Lie on it and put your baby on your chest. He/she will try to lift his/her head to see you. This will strengthen the neck muscles.
- Put some toys within your baby’s reach to teach him/her to start interacting with the surroundings.
- As your baby gets older, start putting toys out of his/her reach so he/she tries to reach out to them.
Tips for baby safe sleeping
The American Academy of Pediatrics has some recommendations for baby-safe sleeping that decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome:
- Sleeping position: Always place your baby in the supine position, wholly on the back. Back sleeping doesn’t only lower the risk of SIDS, it also reduces the possibility of fever, stuffed nose, and ear infection, thus helping prevent choking.
- Sleeping environment: A crib’s mattress should be flat and firm giving the baby the appropriate support. A firm mattress maintains its shape and will not indent or conform to the shape of the infant’s head. Make sure there is no loose bedding or soft objects in the crib during sleeping time as they might increase the risk of suffocation and strangulation. Avoid using a crib bumper. While it protects babies from getting injured, it might increase the risk of suffocation.
- Room temperature: Keep it comfortable and avoid too much heat because this might lead to SIDS. Dress your baby in no more than one extra layer than you would wear. Overheating signs include quick breathing, flushed skin, and sweating.
- Swaddling: There are claims that swaddling might decrease the risk of SIDS. Although there is no scientific evidence for this, swaddling has a positive effect on a baby’s sleep. It makes babies calmer and helps them sleep better. The swaddle shouldn’t be too tight for the baby to breathe or move his/her hips. A good trick is to fit three fingers between your baby’s chest and the swaddle.
- Bed sharing: Sharing an adult bed with a baby is risky and has been proven to increase the possibility of suffocation and SIDS. The risks are higher in the following cases:
– The adults are under sedating medications that make them drowsy.
– The adults are smokers, even if they don’t smoke in bed.
- Baby Sleeping Patterns: 1-3 Months
- Baby Sleeping Patterns: 4-6 Months
- Children’s First Aid Workshops in Cairo
Sources used in this article:
- When Can Babies Start Sleeping on Their Stomachs? – Sleep Foundation
- Babies Need Tummy Time – National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- Safe Sleep for Babies Act
- SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment – American Academy of Pediatrics
- Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play – Healthy Children
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About SIDS and Safe Infant Sleep – National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- When Can Babies Sleep on Their Stomach Safely? – Healthline
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