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Benefits Outweigh Risks Of Babies Sleeping On Backs
By Crystel Bailey
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Health officials still recommend that parents should continue to place babies on their backs even though some people worry this sleeping position will cause them to have flat heads.
In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement urging care-givers to place healthy babies on their backs to reduce the number of deaths caused by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Since then, the number of SIDS deaths decreased by more than 25 percent, but it seems more babies have flat spots on their heads because they no longer sleep on their stomachs.
"There is only a suggestion from recent studies that more babies are developing flat spots on the back of their heads. Parents should realize that the flattening will usually go away a few months after the baby begins to sit up," said Linda Patterson, a registered nurse and health education specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
Research has shown that keeping babies on their backs reduces the risk of SIDS deaths. SIDS, or crib death, is ruled when no other explanation can be given after investigation for the death of a baby under 1 year of age.
"The cause of crib death is unknown. We just know that the baby stops breathing, and the brain doesn't tell the baby to start breathing again properly. We've reduced parents' suffering and the loss of their babies' lives by having babies sleep on their backs," Patterson said.
There are other ways to encourage a more round appearance of the heads besides having babies sleep on their stomachs.
"Vary side sleeping positions with the back position. Lay babies on either side with the lower arm forward to stop them from rolling over onto their stomachs," Patterson said
Change the position of the bed in the room, put babies to sleep the other way in the crib or places mobiles and other attention- getters in different places to encourage babies to sleep with their heads in more than one direction.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend changing position of babies' heads while they are asleep," Patterson said.
She said to make sure infants have a lot of time to lie on their stomachs when they are awake so they can develop their shoulders muscles.
In addition to placing babies on their backs to sleep, people can do other things to reduce the chance of SIDS.
"Make sure that your baby sleeps on a firm mattress or other firm surface. Don't let the baby sleep on a waterbed, sheepskin, pillow or other soft material. Don't place soft stuffed toys or pillows in the crib because these items might smother the baby," Patterson said.
Keep babies away from smoke. Babies exposed to smoke have more colds and other diseases, plus an increased risk of SIDS.
"Babies should be kept warm, but not too warm. Keep the temperature in the baby's room so that it feels comfortable to you," Patterson said.
To help ensure a healthy born baby, pregnant women should receive early and regular prenatal care. They should not smoke or use alcohol or drugs.