Sleep Position and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

Research data has shown large reductions in the frequency of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in populations of children whose parents place them on their back to sleep. We also recommend these other practices that appear to reduce the frequency of SIDS:

  • Put your baby to sleep on his or her back every time. Babies under one year old should always sleep on their back.
  • Put your baby to sleep only on uncluttered, firm, and flat surfaces.
  • Use baby equipment only as intended; don’t leave babies to sleep in swings, car seats, or strollers.
  • Share a room with your baby. Studies show sharing a room for the first six months can decrease the risk of SIDS.
  • Breastfeed. Nursing reduces the risk of SIDS by about 50 percent
  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. Smoking while pregnant can raise the risk of SIDS by 300%
  • Use a pacifier at nap time and bedtime once breastfeeding has been established.
  • Keep your baby current on immunizations. Doing so can reduce SIDS risk by half.
  • Don’t let your baby get too warm. Generally, they need only one layer more than an adult needs to stay comfortable.

Preventing Misshapen Heads

Infants who are placed frequently in the same sleeping position during the first six months of life develop flattening of the side of the head which lies against the sleeping surface. Eventually, the neck muscles and ligaments become tight from lack of use and the child loses the ability to turn the head equally from side to side. This causes the child to spend even more time with the flat side of the head down, worsening the head shape. We see this more frequently now that infants lie on their backs to sleep.

During wakeful periods we recommend that infants be given frequent opportunities to be placed on their stomachs and be encouraged to move their heads in all directions. This will stimulate appropriate development of head control and prevent flattening of the head. The following suggestions may also be helpful in avoiding a misshapen head:

  • Rotate your child’s position in the bed so that she will look in varied directions to see interesting things in the room.
  • Place a mobile, out of the child’s reach, above the crib to stimulate the infant to move the head to look at the mobile in the direction your child tends to avoid.

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