WHILE getting a newborn baby to sleep in one position is pretty easy to do, getting an older child to follow the back-to-sleep rule can be difficult. So what can parents do?
The back-to-sleep rule is one that experts have recommended for years, as it's the sleeping position that best prevents issues like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
But how do you enforce this sleeping position in an older child? And is it really necessary?
Paediatricians say the back is the most suitable position — a recommended sleeping position for a healthy baby issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Infant Position and SIDS recommendations published in 1992 and confirmed in 1994, 2000, and 2005.
SIDS has been directly associated with incorrect sleeping positions — the main one being sleeping on the stomach.
For parents of older children, while the recommendation of putting the baby down on his/her back applies to infants throughout the first year of life, it is particularly important during the first six months, when the incidence of SIDS is the highest.
Sleeping on the stomach is also not recommended because of issues with choking.
The body is programmed to protect the airway at all times and so babies will automatically swallow or cough up whatever they throw up while on the back. On the other hand, in the stomach sleeping position, anything regurgitated or refluxed (puked) from the stomach can collect at the opening of the trachea or windpipe making it easier for that fluid to be aspirated or go into the lungs and cause choking.
Many parents and caregivers use the side sleep position as an alternative; however, this position is unstable and increases the possibility of the child rolling onto his/her stomach which could cause SIDS and choking. There is an increased risk of SIDS when an infant who is accustomed to sleeping on his/her back is placed on the stomach or side.
Suggestions for baby's sleeping position
1. The sleep surface should be firm. Use an appropriate mattress with a fitted sheet. Sleeping surfaces should not include pillows, quilts or other soft surfaces.
2. Sleep area should not be cluttered with toys, soft objects and loose bedding. The area around the infant's face should remain clear.
3. The infant's sleep area should be separate from, but close to that of others. After feeding, the infant should be placed in a separate area to sleep and not between other individuals.
4. The baby should be dressed in light sleep clothing and kept comfortable at room temperature.