I received a question this week and it came at the perfect time. And, it was a good question. The gist of the question is whether it’s OK to put a 9-month old on his tummy to sleep.
First, Back to Sleep
It is highly recommended to place your baby on his back to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you haven’t already, please review the ten ways to reduce SIDS risk, one of which is to make sure baby sleeps on his back to sleep. Some parents are worried baby will choke on spit-up, but babies will automatically swallow fluids or turn to the side. The #1 way to reduce the risk of SIDS is to put baby “back to sleep”.
When can baby sleep on his tummy?
So, when can we put our babies on their tummy to sleep? Please note you should check with your pediatrician, first and foremost. I am not a doctor, but it is my understanding that once your baby can roll onto her tummy, it is OK to allow her to sleep that way and you do not need to worry about continuously flipping her back over. Dr. Sears’ website states “It does not mean that if your baby sleeps on her tummy she’s going to die of SIDS. Current SIDS rates are around one in a thousand babies; meaning that there’s a 99.9 percent chance your child will remain a healthy little girl regardless of her sleep position.” HOWEVER, the AAP recommends that you place baby on her back each time you lay her down for the first year, even if she changes position later.
Some babies start to roll and don’t like it and wake you up numerous times per night. That is never fun. I was lucky that once my son learned to roll that way, he actually slept better! If your baby is rolling uncontrollably and doesn’t like it, this is usually a “short” (not when you’re going through it) 2-3 week phase and she will likely stop.
But, what about older babies?
Even though SIDS can happen anytime in the first year, the peak risk for SIDS is between 2 and 4 months old and 95% of all cases have occurred before 6 months, so that is probably less of a concern in a baby as old as 9 months old (the question at hand I mentioned at the beginning of this post). Many babies are rolling by 9 months old and likely would roll in their sleep, too.
Should you “force” tummy sleeping to get better sleep?
While encouraging your baby to sleep on his tummy when he hasn’t done it himself can work, it may be difficult to implement and not what the AAP recommends. It is best to develop a plan that you can 100% commit to and the #1 question to ask yourself when you consider a plan such as this, is whether you can stand at the crib and rub/pat his back for 2 hours. Of course, most babies probably will not take that long, but in most cases, if you had to visit this site, you do not have an “easy” sleeper and thus, certain methods may take a little longer than with other babies (especially in this case if he isn’t used to sleeping on his tummy). While some may drift off to sleep in 5-10 minutes, yours might take 30, 60 or 90 minutes. The #1 key is to be consistent with your plan, so make sure whatever you choose to do, you feel 100% committed you can stick with it for as long as it takes and then hope he doesn’t take that long. 😉 Of course, you will never know unless you try, either.
However, as with any method, you should be very careful not to create yet another sleep association that you will need to break. Don’t break one sleep association in exchange for another. That’s very important!