Your Baby Is Sleeping Face Down | Should You Really Be Worried?
When you search for baby photos on the Internet or have photos taken of your newborn, one pose appears to stand out:
Baby is sleeping face down.
The infants seem to be sleeping in bliss, giving the impression that babies sleep on their belly as well as when they are on sleeping on their back.
Most pediatricians would advise parents to turn their child over when their baby is sleeping face down because this sleeping position can be dangerous.
Still, there has been some confusion as to whether or not is it okay for babies to sleep on their belly.
So we did some research, and here's what we found out.
One of the fears a new parent has is that their baby might experience Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.
More commonly known was “crib death,” SIDS is the number one cause of death in the United States of babies who are between one month to one year old.
But is it proven?
While there is no proven cause for SIDS, medical experts believe that SIDS may be associated with the part of the infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.
Parents are discouraged to lay their sleeping baby on their belly because a baby is sleeping face down will have more difficulty breathing.
In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that babies should be placed on their backs when asleep and since then, the rate of deaths due to SIDS has significantly decreased.
A study that appeared in American Pediatrics Academy in 2011 claimed that preterm infants in intensive-care nurseries were often placed on their stomachs.
Neonatal nurses will explain that the babies will improve respiratory mechanics. Also, they are less likely to develop a flattened head.
However, the same study advises that preterm babies be placed supine as soon as possible.
At the end of the day...
...it is up to the parent, especially the sleep-deprived ones, how they will position their baby when asleep.
When is It OK for a Baby to sleep on their stomach?
By the time babies are five or six months (some even as early as four months), they will be able to roll themselves over.
With stronger neck, arm, and leg muscles, your 5- or 6-month old, will have unlocked a developmental milestone by flipping over to his belly from being on his back, and vice-versa.
When this happens...
...it would be okay if your baby is sleeping face down because he can change his sleeping position when he needs to.
It is VERY important to keep this in mind the next time you have second thoughts about putting your sleeping baby on his back.
While there will come a time when it's OK to let your baby sleep face down, you should still take these precautions.
- Use firm mattress. We know how soft mattresses get deformed when our baby is in it, which may block the airflow. So if your little one can roll herself over, make sure she's on a firm mattress.
- Use fitted sheets. Loose objects in your child's sleeping area is a no-no. These can cause suffocation because it can cover your baby's face. This is particularly true if your little one moves a lot when asleep.
- Remove loose objects. As I have just mentioned, loose objects have no place in your baby's crib. This includes pillows, blankets, toys, and others.
What are the benefits of sleeping on stomach?
There are really no proven advantages of this sleeping position for babies if “proven” means tested and appears in medical literature.
Nevertheless, here are some good things that can be derived from letting babies sleep on their stomach.
1. No Startle Reflex
Babies are born with several reflexes like the grasp reflex (which is cute because the first thing babies commonly grasp is their parents’ finger).
The Moro reflex, also known as the “startle reflex,” is another obvious one wherein babies just suddenly reach up and outwards, especially when they are asleep.
This reflex can be traced back to when our ancestors’ babies pulled themselves up to cling tighter to their parents whenever they feared that they were falling.
When a baby is sleeping face down or on its side, the occurrence of the Moro reflex is decreased because the baby’s arms and legs are closer to its body.
Swaddling is also known to help if you are not comfortable laying your sleeping baby in these positions.
2. Longer sleep time for baby
This reason can be associated with the first reason. Because the baby is less likely to be startled awake, he will have the tendency to sleep longer.
Babies need quality uninterrupted sleep so that they can develop and grow.
As with adults, babies have two sleep cycles:
- Active sleep, wherein the baby’s eyelids flutter
- Deep sleep, wherein the baby moves lesser and his breathing becomes more rhythmic.
Being abruptly woken up during either one of the cycles would result in a cranky baby.
3. Rest for the weary parent
No one wants their baby to sleep through the night more than a new parent who keeps putting their cranky baby back to sleep.
If letting the baby sleep on its stomach gives makes the baby sleep better, then parents would definitely consider this an advantage.
They should make sure, though, to check on the baby frequently, especially if their baby is still too young to turn over by himself. A baby monitor is your most trusted friend in this scenario.
When is sleeping face down a bad idea?
1. When the mattress is not firm.
As mentioned above, soft mattresses are not safe for babies.
2. When your baby has colds.
When we have colds, our nose gets congested, resulting in difficulty breathing. It will be more difficult for your baby because her respiratory system is not yet fully developed. Instead, let her lie on her back and elevate the head part a little.
3. When the baby is swaddled.
When your baby is strong enough to break free from the swaddle, the blanket may be a loose item. And loose items in the crib may suffocate or strangle your little one.
When you’re baby is sleeping face down, don’t panic right away. It’s perfectly normal because that’s how they were made to sleep at the beginning anyway.
As with other movements and actions you see, it is always better to be safe.
...observe and monitor your baby as often as possible. This is not just for your baby’s safety but also for your own sanity.