One question moms often talk about is whether or not it is safe to let their little ones to lie on their tummies during sleep. Hmm. First of all, let’s talk about your child’s natural range of movement and physical ability during his first four months.
Usually, children within the age of one to four months old cannot roll by themselves. Their muscles are simply not strong enough and their bodies lack the agility to do so. However, most incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) happen within this crucial first four months. This somehow puts the blame on infants sleeping on their tummies as one of the major causes.
Up until now, we don’t have conclusive evidence that such behavior can lead to SIDS, although there might be some reasons to believe this theory. Here’s some of them:
- Lying on the stomach during sleep increases the risk of choking and suffocation since this would put the esophagus over the windpipe where fluids might start to build up.
- Sleeping on ones tummy might cause suffocation especially if the crib’s mattress is too soft or fluffy. Positioners, pillows, blankets, stuffed items, etc. could also increase the risk for tummy sleepers.
- Babies who roll over to their tummies couldn’t roll back because their limbs are too weak to get themselves out of the situation.
Some moms can get too anxious about it that they tend to lose sleep just to make sure their kids don’t roll to their tummies during sleep, or they put them on their backs every time they do it. But this might not be necessary at all if you’ve made your crib baby-safe and baby-friendly. Remember, during his first four months, he’d probably not be able to roll himself over but he could reach out for pillows or anything that could fall on him causing suffocation.
By the time he gets four to five months old, he would be strong enough to roll by himself. And guess what. Some kids just love sleeping on their tummies. But does it mean you have to ‘un-roll’ them each time? The next thing I would like to point out is that by the time kids were able to roll on their tummies, they are equally capable of rolling to their backs. Assuming that they had enough play time during the day, their limbs have also developed enough strength and agility to ‘un-roll’ themselves out.
So what should moms do instead? Here’s some tips to spare yourself from needless sleep deprivation.
- Maintain a baby-safe crib. That means plain, uncluttered, crib. Make sure the mattress is neither too stiff nor too soft and fits snugly inside the crib. Sleeping on ones tummy regardless of age may not be the real cause for distress. If he’s not safe inside his crib, none of them would matter.
- Give enough playtime for your baby during the day. This will allow him to get enough exercise for his growing bones and muscles, so he can move as much as he like during sleep. What about fluids getting stuck in his windpipe during sleep? Fortunately, babies four to six months old has already developed a gag reflex to cough out any substance that gets in the way.
Going back to the question, whether or not it’s safe, I’d say ‘yes’ and ‘no’. ‘Yes’, if you you’ve done what you have to do to make this sleeping habit much safer for him, and ‘no’ if you’re baby is at risk due to health reasons or has an unsafe baby crib.