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). 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 Public Health Agency of Canada 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. Public Health Agency of Canada, et al. (2011). Joint Statement on Safe Sleep: Preventing Sudden Infant Deaths in Canada. Available online: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/dca-dea/stages-etapes/childhood-enfance_0-2/sids/pdf/jsss-ecss2011-eng.pdf.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Thomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerChuck Norlin, MD - Pediatrics
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics

Current as ofApril 20, 2016