Back Is Best is a catchy term used to promote safe sleep for your baby. A safe sleep environment can reduce the risk of all sleep-related infant deaths including SIDS.

“Back in the day” parents weren’t as informed with safe infant sleep practices and therefore infants were often placed on their stomachs for sleep sessions. The good news is that since the 1990s, when the U.S. back-sleeping recommendations were first released and public awareness efforts began (hence the catchy phrase!), the overall U.S. SIDS rate has dropped by about 60 percent. This lower rate equals thousands of babies’ lives. Since then, the number of babies placed on their backs to sleep has tripled – well done parents!!

It has been proven that babies who are placed on their backs to sleep are much less likely to pass from SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides. Hence, the whole “back is best” term. Think of it as putting on your seat belt in the car – it doesn’t make an accident less likely to occur but your risk of getting injured is drastically lowered. Placing your baby on their back is like buckling up in a car!

Infants up to 12 months of age should be placed on their backs for naps and at nighttime. I know there are times where baby just doesn’t want to detach from you – that’s completely normal! Of course they’re more comfortable on your warm, cozy body vs. a firm, flat surface! But just remember that babies who are used to sleeping on their backs but who are then placed on their stomachs, like for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS. This isn’t to scare anyone – it’s just to help you understand the risks involved so that you as a parent have the facts you need to weigh your decisions!

The likelihood of SIDS also increases for babies who sleep on a soft surface or under a soft covering, such as a soft blanket or quilt. That’s why it’s so important to have baby sleeping on a breathable crib mattress such as Nook’s and invest in the safest crib mattress possible.

So Why Does Tummy Sleeping Cause A Problem?

One theory is that when an infant is sleeping on their stomach, especially a soft surface, they can develop a pocket of exhaled carbon dioxide around their face. So when the infant breathes in, they breathe in that carbon dioxide they just breathed out instead of breathing in fresh oxygen. This can cause the infant’s oxygen levels to decrease and the carbon dioxide levels to increase. A baby sleeping on their stomach is in a deeper sleep and therefore less likely to move so he can get more fresh oxygen, SIDS can occur.

Interestingly, one of the main reasons Nook’s SafeSleep™ cover is water-resistant and not waterproof is because the only real way to be waterproof is to use an impermeable waterproof cover, which is made of plastic. The problem with that is, plastic acts as a reflector of that exhaled carbon dioxide so babies then have a combination of breathing in recycled carbon dioxide, reduced oxygen and potential overheating due to the plastic reflecting their warm breath, causing them to breathe more. Not a great combination right? According to Nook’s market research, the top two biggest concerns for moms buying crib mattresses are safety and waterproof. Those two things, though, inherently can’t go together! So I vote safety trumps waterproof and water-resistant is an ideal alternative for that!  

So When Can Baby Be Placed On Their Tummy For Sleep?

The “Back to Sleep” position is the safest position for all babies until they are 1 year old. But most pediatricians will agree that once baby can roll from back to tummy that he is able to sleep on his stomach if he was to roll over during his sleep. I know it can feel worrisome at first but there is no need to worry or constantly reposition them and play the flipping game. Just starting sleep on the back is most important for reducing SIDS risk. Infants usually begin to roll from back to tummy when they are 4-6 months old, which is also the age at which the chance of SIDS decreases.

So while there’s no definitive way to prevent SIDS you have the power to reduce the risk of SIDS and other possible sleep-related causes of infant death. Just remember, Back Is Best: Always place baby on his back to sleep for all sleep sessions to reduce the risk of SIDS.

For all Nook readers who purchase the Mini Package, two extra days of text/email support will be added! Just mention "Nook" in the "Add a Note" section during checkout. CLICK HERE to learn more about The Sleepyhead Coach’s Mini Package and schedule your free, zero judgment 15-minute consult call today!

Julie Connelly, owner and certified sleep consultant at The Sleepyhead Coach, lives in Westchester, NY with her husband and two daughters.  She takes a holistic look at what is at the root of your child's sleep issue and works with you to implement a plan that aligns with your parenting philosophy.