Baby Sleeping With His Face Down: Do You Need To Be Worried?
With the increased awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), sleeping time of our little ones has become more micro-managed. Any slight deviation from normalcy gets us worried sick about them.
Are her eyes closed? Is she asleep on her back? Does she still sleep with her mouth open? These are just some of the questions I used to ask myself every night as my dear daughter slept. I would wake up several times during the night to check up on her, just to be sure.
When babies start to roll, normally around 6 months, a new worry creeps in: The sleeping position. And with the “back to sleep” campaign at full throttle, parents tend to get very worried about their babies rolling into some unsafe sleeping positions.
Take an example of your baby sleeping with her face down. Is it normal or safe? How do you stop it? It is these kinds of maneuvers that can keep you awake all night. Let us figure all these today in this article and have some extra sleep at night in return.
The Back to Sleep Campaign
Before the 1990s, babies used to die mysteriously without any known cause or warning whatsoever. Such deaths without any explanation were referred to as SIDS. SIDS have been known to cause the majority of deaths that occur in infants between the ages of 1 and 12 months.
Some of the reasons for these deaths were attributed to the sleeping positions of the babies. Sleeping on the stomach was thought to be one of those positions. As a result, a campaign was hatched in 1994 to highlight the need for babies to sleep on their backs and not tummies.
This was the birth of the “Back to Sleep” campaign. It was a collaboration between different US institutions such as National Institute of Child Health and Development, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, American Academy of Pediatrics, and others.
The campaign aimed at encouraging parents to have their babies sleep on their backs and not tummies to reduce SIDS. As more babies slept on their backs, SIDS began to reduce. In fact, it has reduced from 4,700 in 1993 to just 2,063 in 2010. That is over 50% reduction as shown here.
It is this campaign that always gets moms very worried when their baby sleeps face down. This is since you, and I think that SIDS sounds too scary. I can’t imagine losing my little one and not being able to know why. Even the thought of losing her should not even cross my mind.
But are there some actual tangible evidence that link “tummy sleeping” to SIDS? Probably there are, probably not.
Although the success of the campaign is undeniably significant, there has been a silent revolt over the campaign. More and more mothers are rebelling against this medical establishment in favor of tummy sleeping. And they are unapologetic about it.
Tummy Sleeping In Babies
There was once a time when a certain generation of parents used to prefer this position of sleep. When put face down, babies would seem to like it, and moms loved it too. This is because anything the kid likes; mommy likes too. However, this was before the “Back to sleep” campaign though.
There are various ways in which moms find tummy sleeping convenient in some ways. Let us take a look at a couple of them.
1. Some Babies Sleep Better On Their Tummies
I have heard this several times before, stories of some kids preferring to sleep on their tummies at the expense of their backs. A possible explanation is the occurrence of reflexes during back position sleeps.
You have probably seen this occurrence of babies moving their legs randomly as they lie or sleep on their backs. Watching it may be fun, but it makes the baby very uncomfortable when he is trying to get some sleep.
But when on the tummy, the abrupt movements of the legs are prevented. The baby can then have all the sleep he wants. And make mummy happy in return.
In some quarters, pediatricians concede that your baby will sleep much better when they are placed on their tummies. The chances of them getting startled are minimized, and they sleep within a shorter time too.
2. Babies reach milestones faster
Certain research shows that babies who sleep on their tummies reach some developmental milestones faster than their back sleeping colleagues. Crawling and rolling requires some practice on the belly, which tummy sleepers have lots of.
This does not, however, mean that back sleepers will not reach these milestones. They do within the acceptable time frames. Alternatively, you can create tummy time for your back sleeper when he wakes up.
Babies Sleeping With Face Down
Let me first of all state here that tummy sleeping does not necessarily mean the baby being in a face-down position. A face-down position refers to the kid planting his face right into the mattress as he gets his sleep.
Such a position can be dangerous for babies of certain ages (below 3 months), but will not affect a thing in babies above 6 months. When a 3 months baby somehow gets into a face-down sleeping mode, flipping himself out of it becomes harder since their head control is not that well-tuned.
But for your babies who have been rolling and crawling for a while, flipping sleeping positions is a normal thing. One time they are on their backs, the next on their sides, face down or even on their tummies.
This flexibility is what gets them out of the risk associated with face down sleeping: not being able to breathe properly. Once they stay face down for too long and breathing becomes hard, they would naturally flip themselves over to breathe again.
This flip-flopping starts mostly at 4 - 5 months. The learning starts by rolling from the belly to the back, then back to the belly. It is a process that normally takes several weeks but ranges from baby to baby.
After this, controlling the sleeping position will be a little harder, but you can trust your little champ to roll his way out when breathing becomes a challenge.
Precautions to Take
As parents, we might never fully prevent our babies from turning in their sleep. All we can do is therefore ensuring that they have a safe sleeping environment. This is a sleeping area devoid of any risks that may harm the baby.
In every position that your baby finds himself sleeping in, it is probably a good idea to leave them in that as it helps them sleep better. This is of course unless they are in an apparent danger from suffocating, especially when face down.
The trend since 1994 used to be babies sleeping on their backs. However, recently pediatricians are advising moms to have their babies sleep on their tummies as it helps babies sleep better.
For a baby sleeping with face down, it should be discouraged if he is below at least 5 months or hasn’t learned to roll in his sleep. For those above 6 months, they should be fine and will roll onto their backs when breathing becomes difficult.