The Back to Sleep campaign scared the daylights out of many parents, making us worry that an infant sleeping on her belly increased her chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. When my daughter starting rolling over in her crib from back to tummy, I was stressed out about it. That campaign, however, is said to have decreased the infant mortality rate by 50 percent in the United States, so it's a great thing we all heeded the warning.
But just like we hear in those commercials how, when curing one thing, there is a laundry list of side effects that could occur, such is the same with infants sleeping on their backs. It could cause a condition called positional plagiocephaly.
Plagiocephaly can also happen when forceps (cringe!) are used during delivery. But in that case, any flat areas on the head resolve within a few weeks. A new recent study noted that 47 percent of infants 12 weeks old or younger developed the condition from sleeping on their backs.
These flat spots aren't just on the back of the head either. They are very often found on the right side, which is the favored side for babies to tilt their heads when asleep. Most of these cases of positional plagiocephaly are mild and can be corrected with physical therapy and non-surgical methods. Other cases need a skull-shaping orthotic helmet or more intervention.
Still, the Back to Sleep campaign is needed to save lives and works, so we shouldn't stop putting babies on their backs to sleep. It's recommended we pay attention to any flat spots and check in with the pediatrician if it seems to worsen especially by 6 months. What we could stop doing is leaving them in car seats when not in the car and not let them sit in a swing or baby bouncer too long. It's also suggested to re-position baby's head when sleeping so it doesn't stay in the same spot for the duration of the nap. Changing the location of the crib often also encourages the little ones to look in different directions when falling asleep. Good things to practice.
Do you worry about making sure your baby is sleeping on her back?
Image via Thorpe Obazee/Flickr