October 18, 2005

Shut Your SIDS Trap, The Kid's Asleep (On Her Stomach)

The NYT reports that some parents are taking in all the SIDS prevention advice and theories that pediatricians put out, examining it, recognizing the still-unclear understanding of the causes of SIDS--and letting their kids sleep on their stomachs sometimes.

Because, of course, they often sleep better on their stomachs, and they don't get flat spots on their heads. Tricky shores to navigate, obviously, but if you look online, you'll find that some people are doing it. (Shoutout to bloggingbaby's Sarah for her money quotes, btw.) While a lot of emotional rhetoric is traded, one level-headed expert, Erica Lyon, a new-birth counsellor at Manhattan's RealBirth Center, has a healthy perspective:

"The role of the professional is to say 'these are the recommendations and this is why.' The role of the parent is to think critically and apply those recommendations in a way that makes their life manageable."
One thing that doesn't get mentioned (besides dads, of course): grandparents. We had grandmothers helping us out for the first few weeks, and we heard all about the benefits of the old days, when kids slept through the night on their stomachs. We ended up doing "tummy time" and short naps for the kid on her stomach from fairly early on as a result, but for the most part, it was all back.

A Quiet Revolt Against the Rules on SIDS [nyt]

12 Comments

The SIDS thing has always pissed me off. They are certain you shouldn't let your child sleep on their stomachs but haven't the slightest idea what causes SIDS. This is one of those many hospital topics where Dad's squirm wanting to ring the doctor/nurses neck while your wife shoots your the "shut up before I kill you" look. Every time I hear "We don't know much about SIDS..." I want to scream. What did the child die of? Something must have stopped... what stopped? Maybe thats the cause?

Anyway, the front vs back argument is highly based on the child anyway. My daughter liked her back (we started her that way due to SIDS worries) but my son just doesn't like sleeping on his back, so we don't make him.

Its just a tough subject no matter how you address it. Another in a long line of questions to which some stupid pediatrition answers "Well, your child could die... but its up to you." !?1!?!?!? Its no wonder people don't like doctors.

Our doc was pretty cool about it. She mentioned the recommendation to sleep on their back, but she said that if our daughter rolled onto her stomach in the middle of the night now and then, we shouldn't really sweat it...

Our Baby Doc and OB both said to never let Jr. sleep on his belly. They both made mention of that fact that since conventional wisdom has gone back to having babies sleep on their backs, the instances of SIDS has fallen off dramatically.

Sorry, no facts or flow charts to substantiate any of these claims.

Jr. seems happy sleeping on his back, and tummy time with Ma and Pa is good fun.

Flat head? Give me a break. Next thing you know, some yahoo with "johnson issues" will start naming his kids after characters from the Superman saga...

[hey, it could happen... -ed.]

We are some of the people who allowed our son to sleep on his tummy. The difference, 15 minute naps vs. 3 hour naps, was immediate and he was much happier.

Other friends of ours do it too.

I take SIDS very seriously since my father did funerals for two babies in one month when I was in high school. But, now that I have my own child, I think that it truly depends on the baby.

There are other things "they" say can be a factor in SIDS deaths- smoking, items in the crib, the temperature in a room. People just seem to hone in on the back to sleep mantra more than the others.

We slept our first kid on his back, because that's what we were 'supposed' to do. what a freaking nightmare. He never slept well, had night terrors, and it just made night-time a mess.

by the time we had our second, we realized that the 1) the doctors have to warn against lowest-common-denominator factors, so while they cant prevent people from having crack babies, or FAS babies, they can say "sleep them on their backs" as some kind of preventative mantra that covers everyone. It's like saying "dont drive over 55. ever." 2) you have to make choices based on what you think as a parent. so, the second kid slept on their belly. everybody was happier.

Since the AAP began the "Back to Sleep" (I even saw a "Face up to Wake up" website) the incidences of plagiocephaly and positional torticollis has increased even though the cases of SIDS haven't decreased too much. And, the AAP recognizes the correlation between the two and admits that sleeping on the back may not be as big of a factor in decreasing SIDS incidence.

And before someone tries to dismiss plagiocephaly as just a vanity or cosmetic issue that parents have latched onto, it's a contributing factor to future problems ranging from TMJ, hearing and sight issues (i.e. depth perception, etc.), and migraines.

[good point. I'm only opposed to putting uninteresting stickers on plagiocephaly helmets. -ed.]

Besides, as our cranio-facial specialist put it at the consultation appointment, "There's four people in this room that survived sleeping on their stomachs, and she will too."

We chose to put our little guy to sleep on his side (alternating each night which side) and he was fine. Once he was able to roll over he'd roll himself onto his belly every night. I was not in the least bit concerned.

mrscrumley: There are other things "they" say can be a factor in SIDS deaths- smoking, items in the crib, the temperature in a room. People just seem to hone in on the back to sleep mantra more than the others.

my son came home from the hospital ( 3 months in intensive care ) absolutely loving sleeping on his stomach. how did he learn to love sleeping on his stomach? the nurses taught him to sleep that way. we talked with them about sids and they all thought that it was almost impossible to quantify the risk associated with sleep position and that there are actually a bunch of other problems that can develop from only sleeping on one's back ( as kevin mentions ). basically the "sleep position" theory is easy to explain to worried parents, but when you look across all the studies it's not quite as clear-cut ( and i'll happily relay this anecdote without bothering to do a rigorous review of all the research :-) ).

then again, our son was hooked up to respiration monitors even after he came home so we always were quite aware when he stopped breathing ( for reasons quite unrelated to SIDS ).

Our first daughter loved to sleep on her stomach, the second - not so much. We always take what 'doctors' say with a grain of salt and tend to research as much as we can and also be aware of what works for our reality.

I've never heard of SIDS until the past few years. I really think that the loss of a child for any reason is tragic, but I guess the unexplainable loss of a baby is even more painful.

I guess this is why doctors are trying to provide as much warning to parents as possible. That seems to be the "message of the month". There are some tools that can help keep a closer eye on your little ones. [the website whose url has been removed] specilaizes in baby safety solutions...INCLUDING SIDS movement sensors and video monitors. Great gifts and discounts when you join the Member's Forum.

[someone's no doubt well-meaning but statistically unproven to have any impact on SIDS prevention] Home Baby Safety Solutions

To put things in perspective, the number of infant who died from SIDS has dropped by 50% since the back to sleep campaign began in 1990.
To put that in a simpler perspective for those who think that is insignificant, the death rate from SIDS in 1989 was 5,634 infants a year. By 2002, that dropped to 2,295.
In the very simplest terms, the difference is 3,339 fewer dead infants a year.
By the way, like a lot of other baby safety techniques, the Back to Sleep campaign wasn't invented in America. It was adopted as a pediatric recommendation based on research done in New Zealand, Britain and Holland, which discovered a correlation between infant deaths and sleep position.
Finally, for those folks who justify passing on backsleeping because they get a good night's sleep: don't worry, the odds are only 1 in 727 your baby will die of SIDS. Don't let it keep you awake that with backsleeping, your baby's odds increase to at least 1 to 1786. You just get yourself a good night's sleep.
BTW: compare with the odds on winning a six number lottery: about 1 in 14,000,000.
And remember, when this story gets updated next year, the press won't be asking those parents whose children were allowed to sleep prone and died of SIDS whether they regret that decision.

Why on Earth would you even consider risking it? What is WRONG with you people? It's not we're talking about missing a bus here. It's a child LIFE. Your child. If you arent willing to protect it, who will? And for what? A better nights sleep? Well, I see where your priorities lie...and it aint with your child. Unbelievable!

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