If you're a millennial, your baby book may contain a picture or two of you as a baby sleeping on your stomach, maybe with your thumb in your mouth and butt in the air. If you try to put your baby in the crib on their back, you may note your mother-in-law, grandma, or aunt's pursed lips and head shake. You may also have sat through more than one well-meaning lecture about how much babies like to sleep on their stomach.
But stay strong, mama! The older moms in your life say this because their doctors told them to put their babies on their stomachs to sleep. And you survived, so what's the problem? Well, the problem is that decades of research since then has shown over and over: the safest way for baby to sleep is on their back. Let's talk about why.
Why Can't Babies Sleep on Their Stomachs?
In 2022, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published some updated guidelines about safe sleep. In 1994, the "Back to Sleep" campaign was started in many countries in response to a soaring number of sleep-related infant deaths. Since then, these numbers have plummeted, meaning babies have stayed safer with this new method. This good news gives us substantial evidence that putting babies to sleep on their back keeps them more protected than sleeping on their belly.
Risk of SIDS
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), now updated to Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), describes the unexpected death of an infant under one year of age. If baby is put to sleep on their stomach too early, evidence has shown that these babies are more likely to experience a life-threatening event. Babies need time to develop the strength to lift their heads consistently and to shift their bodies to keep their mouth and nose clear of obstructions.
When Can Babies Sleep on Their Tummy?
According to the AAP, babies should sleep on their backs until they reach one year of age. Some babies will learn to roll over during bedtime (or nap time) before they turn one, and that's okay.
What if Baby Rolls on Their Stomach While Sleeping?
If your little one rolls to their stomach while they're trying to fall asleep or anytime during a sleep session, don't worry. You don't need to run in there and flip them back over. As baby grows and gets stronger, they'll soon be flopping all over that crib!
Once baby completes their first roll, it's time to lose the swaddles. While swaddles work very well to keep infants feeling safe, they can stop an older baby from moving the way they need to. If you still want to snuggle baby up a bit, you can use zip-up blankets.
Back to Sleep Is Still the Best Advice
Parenting advice changes a lot over time, and that's a good thing. Without advances in research, we might still believe that a cat steals a baby's breath! When it comes to your baby's sleep positions, the current consensus to that putting them down for a rest on their back is the safest approach. If you're concerned about any aspect of your baby's sleep, however, consult your pediatrician.