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Questioning SIDS "Back to Sleep Campaign"

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 
OK so I'm not looking to start a HUGE debate here. Well, I guess there's nothing wrong with a healthy debate...so here goes.

My baby is 2 months old and he has a very hard time sleeping on his back. He will fall asleep in my arms and sometimes for a little while in his carseat because it props him upright a bit, but as soon as I try to lay him down in his crib or in a bassinet, or one of his other "containers", he wakes up within 5 minutes. I know people say to swaddle him, but it's July and hot as ever and even on cooler nights, he fights his way out of the swaddlers. He basically won't sleep in the crib unless he is absolutely exhausted, and even then he doesn't seem to sleep well. He kicks around and seems generally restless and unhappy in his sleep.

It seems as soon as I flip him around on his tummy, he immediately cozies up and scrunches up his knees and falls asleep right away. I wonder if babies were "meant" to be sleeping on their tummies and sides and we are going against nature by forcing them to sleep on their backs? To get him to sleep at night, I always lay him on his side next to me in bed, then nurse him to sleep. He falls asleep on his side, then when I move away a little, he rolls onto his tummy and sighs a big happy sigh and sleeps away. Then, after a little while of watching every breath he takes, I always get paranoid because he is on his tummy and flip him around again, which makes him wake up again. Even if I can get him to sleep on his back for a few minutes, he'll always flail his arms and startle himself awake, which does not happen when he's on his tummy.

So my question is, aside from the risk of SIDS (which I admit is a HUGE risk and in no way am I advocating that parents should overlook this...please don't take it that way!) are babies getting good enough sleep on their backs? Obviously not all babies are like mine and maybe some sleep very well on their backs, but I have talked to a lot of other moms who deal with the same sleep issues as me.

I've read some studies that have shown that many babies are reaching developmental and social milestones later because of this and know a lot of moms who really struggle with tummy time because the baby is not accustomed to being on the tummy. I also know a mom who had to have her son's head fixed because of a massive flat spot that developed and doctors even proposed having him wear a helmet all day for a few months!

Does anyone know if there is a link between kids being diagnosed with things like Autism and ADHD and the whole "Back to Sleep" campaign, which started in the early nineties? I would think that if babies are taking longer to reach milestones, that could be something they use as a marker for these types of disorders and cause more kids to be diagnosed. A friend of mine works as an "early intervention specialist" and her job is to go into houses and evaluate babies and toddlers to see if they are at risk for Autism. They use these developmental "milestone markers" as ways to diagnose the babies so I wonder if all of this ties together??

In terms of SIDS, I wonder if it's the tummy sleeping per se, or if it's something else that is making it correlate but not necessarily cause it. For instance, some theories are that mattresses have toxins in them, like flame retardants, which cause babies to breathe in more of when sleeping on tummies (a fix could be to get an organic mattress maybe?) Smokers might have a higher level of toxins in their furniture in general which could account for the higher rate in smoking houses...Rates are higher in the winter because babies are kind of shut in around these toxins and don't get as much fresh air allowing their furniture to "air out."

Have SIDS rates declined because we are more aware of it in general? People have started getting better prenatal care? We have become more health conscious? We smoke less around babies? Smoking has been banned in many public places where previously it was not? We use baby monitors and check on babies more because of our SIDS paranoia? We are more aware of other risk factors? Was the decline in SIDS just from flipping babies around or was it something else?

Personally I believe Autism has many causes, which is why we haven't narrowed it down to just one thing and why we have been able to "rule out" so many things that probably do cause it in some cases but who really knows. Anyway, I'm just thinking out loud here and wondering if anyone wants to weigh in. Again, I'm not promoting changing what doctors are advising but I am questioning the quality of sleep our babies are getting and looking for more information if anyone knows of it. This campaign has been going on for 18 or so years now so I'm thinking it's about time we evaluated how well it's worked out.

Thoughts? Experiences? Advice for getting my baby to sleep better on his back?
post #2 of 64
Part of the reason why "back to sleep" was instituted is for exactly the reasons you point out- babies tend to sleep better (and more deeply) on their tummies. Some people reason that a baby who is in a deeper sleep is less likely to wake up if a change in breathing pattern occurs, so babies who sleep on their backs (and therefore spend less time in "deep sleep") are safer.

That being said, I would be uncomfortable putting my baby to sleep on her tummy at night. For naps, or any time when I would be monitoring her closely, I would be okay with it.

Also, I think it depends on what kind of surface baby is sleeping on. If baby is on a firm crib mattress, I would probably feel more comfortable. However, we bedshare, and I know our mattress is probably a bit softer then most. Therefore, I feel more comfortable with DD on her back.

Have you tried putting baby on his/her side? That might help.
post #3 of 64
No science to back me up - but if I were you I'd put him on his belly and be done with it.

Personally I always felt comfortably aware of DD when I was sleeping with her.
post #4 of 64
I'm way too paranoid to let my son sleep on his tummy, but there's no doubt he's prefer to do so. He takes chest naps on me and my hubby that way, but I think that's ok. He's not even a month and he's already worming onto his side at night. Right now, he's usually sleeping quite near me in the bed. I position him on his back, but he always at least turns his head toward me. I keep a hand on his chest, partly because our co sleeper is on its way, and partly to make sure he's breathing.
post #5 of 64
I've never purposely put my kids to sleep on their backs. I've heard from several pre-back-to-sleep moms that they didn't do it because of the fear that the baby would choke on their own vomit since they couldn't move their heads early on. I usually feel comfortable with my babies on their sides until they are old enough to move and choose their own positions, which is often their tummies.
post #6 of 64
My little one wouldn't sleep unless she was on her tummy or side. It got to the point where I had to decide which was worse... a baby and a mama who are ALWAYS way overtired... or the risk of SIDS. Eithery way, it was just very very bad altogether. We already had some other issues going on that made the sleep situation even worse.

I ended up deciding that I needed to let her sleep how she would sleep. I tried to prop her on her side which worked MOST of the time but otherwise she was completely healthy and was close to me with none of the other SIDS risks present. I figured us sleeping at least a few hours a day was considerably safer than neither of us getting ANY sleep on her back.

it was helpful though that from birth she could move her head side to side on her sleep on her tummy. She was born STRONG. I was also afraid of her choking if she was on her back too.. that was my LAST reasoning because SIDs paranoia gets me, but it did help me feel more comfortable knowing she couldn't choke and could move her head too.
post #7 of 64
Originally Posted by fruitfulmomma View Post
I've never purposely put my kids to sleep on their backs. I've heard from several pre-back-to-sleep moms that they didn't do it because of the fear that the baby would choke on their own vomit since they couldn't move their heads early on. I usually feel comfortable with my babies on their sides until they are old enough to move and choose their own positions, which is often their tummies.
Before we realized DS had a dairy problem he would wake up choking due to reflux. Scared the CRAP out of me. So, I started putting him on his side. We cosleep and I always woke up when his breathing changed (even on his back...it's weird. I would wake up thinking, "Something's different" and know it was his breathing) He now sleeps on his tummy most of the time. At first DH was worried because "babies suffocate when they sleep on their tummies!!!"
post #8 of 64
My DD2 is 8 weeks old and has a heck of a time on her back. She hates hates hates it, waving her arms and making awful noises all night. The only way she sleeps deeply for long periods is on her side in the big bed or in somebody's arms. When she's in the cosleeper we have to put her on her back- she's got casts on for club foot which make it impossible for her to sleep on her tummy. When the casts come off in 2 weeks, I'm putting her right on her stomach so we can all get some sleep. DD1 slept her whole life face down, but she's 19 and that's what we were told to do then.
post #9 of 64
DS still at 8 months falls asleep on his side. Personally I think it is a nice "middle ground" sort of position, he can curl up how he wants to, isn't on his belly in too deep of a sleep, and not on his back either (I was worried about the same choke on his vomit thing as a PP)
post #10 of 64
I wish to goodness I'd had DD sleeping on her belly at a younger age. She slept on her back until she was probably +/- 9 months, and she... didn't sleep! At all! I fought and fought and fought and fought with her to sleep, and it's still a big fight. The few times she got onto her belly she slept a lot better, and then once I stopped freaking out about it she slept on her belly full time- even now, she's a tummy sleeper.

I've read that babies are naturally more comfortable on their bellies because it helps them feel cozy and safe and secure, helps prevent flailing limbs (that was a big problem for us, we swaddled for AGES), and allows them to curl up into the position their used to - being on their backs must feel so so odd to them.

DS has slept on his belly from birth. At first only for naps on a firm surface (in his basinette, for example) but he could roll easily from a young age and once he got that figured out I let him sleep on his belly even at night. He sleeps well, and is easy to get to sleep. I'm sure a lot of this is personality, but the difference in quality of sleep between him and my daughter is honestly pretty astounding.

I'm also a bit confused, because I kept hearing from people that babies being SUPER tired is a big SIDS factor. If your baby has trouble sleeping on their backs and they get more and more and more overtired... aren't you then increasing the SIDS factor right there?

I've been thinking this back-to-sleep thing is being over promoted, almost. I think if you follow other guidlines (breastfeed, firm surface, non-smoker, etc) and your baby honestly won't sleep on their backs, then don't force it. I think of it as a guideline, not a rule.
post #11 of 64
Personally, I've been okay with my babies on their tummies when I was next to them (at night or naps) I would not be comfortable with a baby in a room alone on their tummy.

post #12 of 64
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for all of the responses. I have also heard that keeping them on their backs prevents them from falling into a "deep sleep" which is part of what perhaps keeps them from getting SIDS. But to me this is like saying that in order to prevent your baby from dying in his sleep, you must make sure that he doesn't ever really sleep.

Whenever I have one of those nights where I'm tossing and turning and don't fall into a deep sleep all night, I wake up feeling just awful. I worry that's what my baby feels like all the time. I feel like it can't be that good for him to never really get a good sleep. I don't know. My mom was told to put us all on our bellies back in the 80's when my siblings and I were babies so she thinks I should just let him sleep on his tummy.

I let him nap on his tummy today and he napped longer than he ever has...3 hours! I checked on him pretty much constantly but it was nice to know he was actually sleeping for once. I'm not sure about tonight. He sleeps in a bassinet right next to me so I can check him all the time but I'm sure I'll be afraid to sleep if I let him.

I haven't heard that about them being overtired leading to SIDS but if that is the case, then my poor LO is probably at risk in that way
post #13 of 64
DD2 has slept on her belly since we brought her home from the hospital. I hate putting babies to sleep on their backs b/c they do not sleep as well & often startle themselves awake. She sleeps in her crib in her room & she already sleeps thru the night.

DD1 also slept on her belly. It was after a few weeks of being home & she just slept so much better that way.
post #14 of 64
Thread Starter 
Just wanted to add...I do let him fall asleep on his side. But then I worry that his arm will fall asleep or he'll cut off the circulation cause he's laying on one arm. Maybe I'm just worrying too much about everything but that's how I am!
post #15 of 64
My dd was born at the beginning of the back to Sleep campaign and her brothers followed soon after. I have to admit they all slept on their tummies because they slept better that way but now as 2 teens and a tween they sleep on their backs most of the time! I knew what I was doing but I would have been devistated all the same if something had happened.
post #16 of 64
Personally I wouldn't be comfortable with a babe that young sleeping on their belly. My ds (7 wks) sleeps on his side. I'm always afraid he"ll start choking in his sleep if he is on his side. HOWEVER, I also have one of these:
http://www.angelcare-monitor.com/United-States/en/home. This monitor picks up the baby's sounds as well as movements (if their is no movement...like from not breathing in 20 sec the monitor alarms). This monitor makes me feel safe b/c I guess I'm a paranoid mama
post #17 of 64
I understand about the back to sleep thing and I have two grandchildren who started life on the their backs to sleep until they learned how to roll over themselves.
That said, when I had children (they are now 34, 32 and 26), They all slept on their tummies from birth because that was thought of as safest for infants.
It kind of blows my mind that now it's just the opposite. All my friends of course put their babies to sleep on their tummies also. I was so shocked and scared when I heard that babies must sleep on their backs. I was scared the babies would choke on spit-up or vomit. How things change........
post #18 of 64
You brought up some interesting points about stomach vs back sleeping. Something to think about anyway.

I've definitely been scared into not letting my babies sleep on their stomachs. When they are in bed with me, they sleep on their side, face right by my breast. On their own, it's on their backs. I would not feel comfortable with a baby sleeping stomach down on my bed with me and DH in it because the mattress is too soft.

DS did not sleep for long periods, DD is much better at it. She will fall asleep on her back, it's amazing to me how different she is.
post #19 of 64
When my son was a newborn, he spent most nights asleep on his belly while he was on my chest. I would lay on my back and then he would fall asleep on my chest and we would both sleep that way. He only had to wiggle a millimeter and I was awake in an instant. When he was a few weeks old, I started having him sleep on his side next to me. I would wedge a small pillow behind his back and he was in between the pillow and my breast and he slept like a champ that way.

I once woke up in a panic and wasn't sure what was going on, but he had gotten the blanket over his head, so I removed it, rearranged everything and we both went back to sleep. When your baby is right beside you, you just become so attuned to their every move that I felt completely ok with side sleeping.

His head did take on a bit of a funny shape with the side sleeping though. It got a little squished on the sides and looked a little narrow for a while, but it went back to normal when he was around 1ish and would sleep in all sorts of crazy positions.
post #20 of 64
My Mom had a realllllly hard time understanding the back to sleep thing, because she had been told (like many pp's here) that it was safer on the tummy because of the vomit thing.

My understanding of it is that the back to sleep is the only thing they have "done" that has shown a measureable drop in the cases of sids. To me that means that is indeed lowering the risk of sids. But with that said there are many factors that change the risk of sids (smokers in the house, maturity of baby, air flow, mattress softness, etc, etc.) so I think each family has to look at their own situation & risk factors & decide whether or not it is worth it.

For me it wasn't worth any additional risk but ds also rolled fairly young & then it was no longer an issue 'cause he'd just roll into whichever position was most comfy for him.
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