Skip Nav
71 Last Names That Sound Adorable as First Names
Little Kids
5 Phrases That Will Make Your Kids Stop Crying and Begging
Birth Story
6 "Ridiculous" Things I Don't Regret Packing in My Hospital Bag

Babies Continue to Sleep on Stomachs

Too Many Babies Are Still Sleeping on Their Tummies

Every child has a different bedtime routine, but one thing they should all have in common is their sleep position. But that doesn't seem to be the case. A recent study finds that, despite the health risks, almost 30 percent of babies in the US are placed on their sides or stomachs when it's time for bed.

"This is very worrisome given the rate of SIDS, which has been stagnant over several years," Dr. Sunah Hwang, the study's lead author and a neonatologist at Boston Children's Hospital, tells NBC News. SIDS, which is the leading cause of death among children ages 1 month to 12 months, has been linked to these particular sleep positions for quite some time. To encourage parents to place sleeping babies on their backs and reduce the risk of SIDS, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development launched the Back to Sleep campaign in the 1990s. The campaign was effective, as researchers saw a 50 percent drop in SIDS-related deaths during a 10-year period. Over the past few years, however, the rates have remained the same, with more than 2,000 children dying from SIDS in 2010.

So why do parents ignore these numbers? Studies show that parents unnecessarily worry about their children choking when placed on their back.


"I tell parents that their child has a normal airway and a normal nervous system, and so they have a mechanism to prevent the vomit from going into the lungs," Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, tells NBC News. Brown adds that NICU practices may also be to blame for parents' behavior.

"When I walk into the NICU, many babies are sleeping on their stomachs, and they can do that because there are monitors and oxygen support," Brown says. "But the baby may get used to sleeping in that position, and the parent may be used to seeing that." Both Brown and Hwang believe NICUs need to model safer sleep practices by occasionally placing preterm infants on their backs once they reach 34 weeks gestational age. They also believe the medical community needs to be more involved in spreading the message of proper sleep positions, especially to less educated families.

"The teaching that doctors and nurses do and the messages from the health community may not effectively be reaching these underserved women," Hwang says.

Image Source: Shutterstock
Join The Conversation
MonicaMurphy49440 MonicaMurphy49440 3 years

Did you ask WHERE the babies were? We didn't use a crib. My infants slept across my chest so they breathed when I breathed and could move over to nurse when they needed to nurse. yes this means I slept on my back for 6-8 months (oh Well) Wouldn't have traded my choice of doing things for the world. Now when they both got to the 9-10 month age sliding them to my side off my chest was the obstacle lol And yes we have a family bed too!

DebbieChandler20312 DebbieChandler20312 3 years

When my oldest was 8 days old he was laying on his back, spit up, and choked. He stopped breathing. It was horrifying! All three of my sons laid on their side. I used those wedges you can buy - worked great! It's better for their necks, too.

SallyBackhaus SallyBackhaus 3 years

The reason why back sleeping reduces SIDS is because that is the position a baby will naturally fall into when it lets go of its mom's boob while they're sleeping next to each other. The reason tummy sleeping came into vogue when formula did is because it's easier to sleep on your stomach than your back when your tummy hurts. Tummy sleepers may sleep longer, but that's not healthy for babies. Not waking regularly is a huge risk factor for the breathing problems that seem to make SIDS more likely.
There's a reason it was originally called "crib death" and doesn't happen in cultures that don't isolate their children at night or expect them to sleep like adults.

Tabitha79424 Tabitha79424 3 years

I almost lost my 2 yr old when he was first born by sleeping him on his back, I decided to sleep him on his belly after that and no longer had any issues with him stopping breathing. It became apparent that he had large adenoids at 9 months when he would roll on to his back in his sleep and start snoring really bad, I would have to wake him and place him back on his belly, I worried for so long that I was going to lose him to SIDS. I was made to feel bad for doing what was right for him, now that his adenoids have been removed I let him sleep how he wants. And guess what just like his daddy he sleeps on his belly 90% of the time.

angelalawrence43437 angelalawrence43437 3 years

Mechanism to prevent choking, huh? Then explain to me how my friend's 3 YEAR OLD grand daughter choked on her own vomit and died, while sleeping on her back. 3 YEAR OLD.

shawnnlively73341 shawnnlively73341 3 years

You can find a study to tell you anything you want to hear, Jacqueline. It just depends on which link you click.

shawnnlively73341 shawnnlively73341 3 years

I'm sorry, but if baby is a better sleeper on the stomach, baby's a better sleeper! The parents who do the stomach sleep thing are generally the ones who are paying attention to their child's needs and wants more closely anyway.

My eldest was a tummy sleeper from day one, REFUSED to sleep on back or side. STILL at the age of 20 cannot fall asleep unless he's on his stomach. Oh, and he's 20. So, SIDS has ALOT less to do with sleeping position than they're trying to make us think.

DianeProper DianeProper 3 years

Thank you for sharing Marsha, and sorry for your loss. Just after my son was born, my OBGYN lost his son to SIDS. It just happened. People want/need to justify a death of an infant, and if they can do that by saying it was because of this or that, then maybe that's what THEY need to do.

JulieRobinson89277 JulieRobinson89277 3 years

So sorry for your loss.

FayeVitali FayeVitali 3 years

I think everyone needs to realize that the medical community has nothing to gain by telling you that it is safest to sleep your infant on his back! They are merely telling you because they have seen a reduction in SIDS with back sleepers and want nothing but the best for your child. Just about every post below is attacking them like they are doing something horrible! They aren't selling you some magical potion, they are giving the best advice they can for the situation. Actually they are saving you money by telling you not to buy all the fru fru fluffy bumper pads and pillows because they can harm your child!

MarshaMais MarshaMais 3 years

Because tummy sleeping related SIDS is a crock of shit. Its been found out thst there are brain chemicals, that SIDS babies lack compared to others, that help regulate sleep and breathing patterns.
I lost a little girl to SIDS. I had a friend lose his over a decade ago. Neither of our babies were tummy sleepers or were smothered with anything. I started doing research. If SIDS. is going to happen, it will happen.

alyssaoeffling1393980745 alyssaoeffling1393980745 3 years

I always place my six month old on her back..she rolls over and sleeps on her tummy and has been since she could roll over. am I really supposed to wake her up and roll her back to her back? Don't think so.... there are new sids studies out that suggest there may be other neurological issues with babes who pas away from sids.. I don't think tummy sleeping is the worst you could do

Boys Wearing Skirts to Protest School Uniforms
NICU Graduation Photos
Baby Shower Games For Men
Mom's Post About Letting Kids Relax During the Summer
From Our Partners
Latest Moms
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds