Why Is Stomach Sleeping Dangerous?

August 30, 2022

As parents, we want our babies to get some sleep. Not only does it give us a break, but we know the baby is going to be happier when they’re well-rested. So you do what 70% of parents have let their babies do, which is sleep on their stomach at some point, despite being told sleeping on their stomach increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

But why is this? Well, there are a few reasons you might choose to let your baby sleep on their stomach:

  • It feels more comfortable for them.
  • They’ll sleep longer if they’re on their tummy (which means more rest for you).
  • Your parents tell you they let you sleep on your stomach and there’s nothing to worry about.

Placing your baby on their stomach too soon may increase the risk of SIDS. And while you’re parents may say, “well, you survived on your stomach”, other babies did not. Although the overall risk of SIDS is low–a little under 1 death per 1000 live births–this number is still too high. Our SIDS rates in the United States are much higher than those of many other countries. Every year, around 3,500 babies die of SIDS.

Now, this information is not meant to scare you. We just want you to have the information that IS saving lives. The “Back to Sleep” campaign, which recommended back sleeping, has made a huge impact on the incidence of SUID/SIDS. 

The back sleeping campaign dropped the incidence of SIDS by 60 percent!

So, while stomach sleeping sounds more peaceful, it is bad for infants because they don’t have a fully developed arousal system for waking up. If they can’t breathe while they’re on their stomach, they can’t do anything to fix it; they can suffocate. Placing infants on their backs helps them sleep safely.

The same goes for placing your baby to sleep on their side. On their side, it is possible for the baby to roll onto their stomach and end up in this unsafe sleeping position.

Will my baby be sleeping on their back forever? How long do I have to keep these recommendations up?

The American Academy of Pediatric guidelines states that after one year of age or when your baby can roll from back to front and front to back independently, it’s fine for them to sleep face down, as long as they are not suffering from a health condition. If they are healthy, you can allow them to sleep in any position they prefer at this point, including on their stomach. 

In the end, the benefits of back sleeping outweigh the risks of stomach sleeping. Before you know it, your newborn will be able to choose a sleeping position that contributes to more restful nights for both of you.

The information shared in this is part of the Sleep Safe Baby Campaign with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Sleep Safe Baby is an Infant Safe Sleep Public Education and Awareness Campaign funded by First 5 Fresno County. Our hope with Sleep Safe Baby is to shift cultural norms and everyday sleep practices to reduce SIDS in Fresno.

PLEASE SHARE this Information with other mamas, papas, grandmas, grandpas, caregivers, birthing coaches, doulas, and providers to help us protect babies and reduce SIDS.


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