When babies sleep on their backs, it helps to keep their mouths and noses unblocked so they breathe in clean, fresh air and do not overheat.
No. Healthy babies naturally swallow or cough up fluids—it’s a reflex all people have to make sure their airway is kept clear. Babies might actually clear such fluids better when on their backs because of the location of the windpipe (trachea) when in the back sleep position. When the baby is in the back sleep position, the windpipe lies on top of the esophagus, which leads to the stomach. Anything regurgitated or refluxed from the stomach through the esophagus has to work against gravity to enter the trachea and cause choking. When the baby is sleeping on its stomach, such fluids will exit the esophagus and pool at the opening for the trachea, making choking much more likely.
The baby’s comfort is important, but safety is more important. Parents and caregivers should place babies on their backs to sleep even if they seem less comfortable or sleep more lightly than when on their stomachs.
Some babies don’t like sleeping on their backs at first, but most get used to it quickly. The earlier you start placing your baby on his or her back to sleep, the more quickly your baby will adjust to the position.
Keep bedtime and naptime routines the same every day, as much as possible. Establish a nightly routine, such as bathing, cuddling, feeding and rocking baby before bed. Gently rubbing baby’s arms and legs, soft lighting, and keeping things quiet for one hour before bedtime helps. Try reading a story, or playing soft music or white noise prior to sleep.
Consider using a pacifier when you place baby on her back for sleep for the first year. Pacifier use has been shown in studies to decrease the risk of SIDS. If baby spits out the pacifier after falling asleep, you do not need to put it back in her mouth.
Always place babies on their backs when you put them down for sleep. Continue to place babies on backs at bedtime and nap time, even after learning how to roll. Once babies start rolling and choosing own sleep position, you don’t need to keep turning them over onto backs. When babies can roll over, it is even more important that there is nothing else (blankets, soft toys, bumper pads, pillows) in the sleep area to get near their face.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden death of an infant younger than one year of age that remains unexplained. SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies between one month and one year of age. Most SIDS deaths occur in babies between one month and four months of age, and the majority (90%) of SIDS death occur before a baby reaches six months of age. However, SIDS deaths can occur at any time during a baby’s first year. There is no certain way to prevent SIDS, but there are ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant death.
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