The One Little Issue With Babies Sleeping on Their Backs

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baby sleepingThe 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

baby development, baby first year, baby sleep, in the news, sids


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SuzyB... SuzyBarno

Um you have to switch sides every night so that doesn't happen to your babies head. My first was facial presentation so her neck was kinda tweaked and her head preferred one side too. So I took a long sock filled with rice and put it right next to her head so that she couldn't put it to that side, so that it would fall to the other side. After that was fixed then I would switch sides every night. It's called shaping your babies head, it's not rocket science.

Samantha Bennett

Actually, and I might get blasted for this, but both my babies slept on their tummies most of their infancy. They fared quite well and are just fine.

B1Bomber B1Bomber

Once your baby can roll over, it's safe for him to sleep on his tummy. Mine both rolled over just after a month and both immediately started sleeping longer stretches (one went from 3 hours to 5, the other from 5 hours to 8).

Simon... SimonzKedge

Holding your kids also helps. So many babies nowadays are just carried in those buckets 24/7, from car to stroller to sleeping in it. Or if they're actually taken out, it's to but them in another baby holding device, ie swing, rocker, high chair, playpen, crib... No wonder so many kids are getting flat heads!

Nurse... Nursekelly1980

My youngest slept on his back til around 4 months when he started rolling. He favored one side of his head so he ended up with a noticeable flat spot. it worried me to no end. But once he started rolling it corrected itself

schlis schlis

Back to sleep. Tummy to play. Very limited time in car seats, swings, and bouncers. Your kid won't get a flat spot if you do this.

tuffy... tuffymama

Samantha Bennett, both of mine tummy slept half the time.

We co-sleep, so SIDS was never a concern. LO had a breathing problem and mild apnea when he was born that lasted a couple of months, and he DID stop breathing once at night. I put my hand on his chest and he started breathing again. I wouldn't have woken when he quit breathing had he been in a crib.

tuffy... tuffymama

Also, wanted to say that babies don't usually get flat spots when they're carried. Baby wearing is natural and healthy.

Foley... Foleygirl24

Our pediatrician told us that putting him in the carrier or bouncy seat to sleep would actually help with the flat head issue because when they are semi-reclined and more upright it takes some of the weight and pressure off the back of their heads. Seemed to work for DS, his flat spot evened  out when we started having him nap in the bouncy seat.

Jen Roberts

My son had that and had the doctors thinking he had microcephally! I was causious with my daughter though! She had her crib placed at an angel ( I put blankets to make it at an incline) I was switching her head all the time. I hated that!

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