Babies' Sleep Position and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

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Topic Overview

Many studies have shown that placing a baby younger than 1 year old to sleep on his or her back is the most important thing parents can do to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Since 1992, the number of babies who sleep on their back has gone up (due mostly to the national "Back to Sleep" campaign), and there has been a steady drop in the SIDS rate.footnote 1

Placing babies to sleep on their backs reduces the risk of SIDS. Side sleeping was also recommended in the past, but it is much easier for babies to roll to their stomachs from their sides than from their backs. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, do not place your baby to sleep on his or her side or stomach.

For the first 6 months, have your baby sleep in a crib, cradle, or bassinet in the same room where you sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you don't ever sleep with your baby in the same bed, especially if you smoke or have used alcohol, illegal drugs, or medicine that makes you sleep very soundly (sedatives).

Never sleep with a baby on a couch or armchair. And it is not safe to place your baby on a couch to sleep. It is not safe to place your baby in a car seat, sling, swing, bouncer, or stroller to sleep. The safest place for a baby is in a crib, cradle, or bassinet that meets safety standards.

In rare cases, a doctor may recommend a different sleeping position if your baby has certain health problems.

As babies mature, they learn to roll from their backs to their stomachs. Babies who roll onto their stomachs during sleep do not need to be continually shifted onto their backs. But always initially place them to sleep on their backs.

When your baby is awake and someone is watching, allow your baby to spend some time on his or her stomach ("tummy time"). This may be good for the baby's development and may help prevent flat spots on the back part of the head.

References

Citations

  1. Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (2011, reaffirmed 2014). SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Expansion of recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics, 128(5): e1341–e1367. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-2285. Accessed April 7, 2015.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics

Current as ofMarch 11, 2016

Current as of: March 11, 2016