This guide is the first in a series on unpopular decisions we parents make about our babies. Tummy sleeping is generally frowned upon by most pediatricians, other parents, and anyone who watches the news. We all know the latest SIDS research warns against letting your baby sleep in any position except on his back. I do not mean to undermine these warnings, and this guide is not meant to provide medical advice, but to talk frankly with other parents who have already made the decision to allow their babies to be tummy sleepers. If you are unsure about tummy sleeping for your baby, please consult your pediatrician.
My son came into this world healthy, but with a number of strikes against his well-being. He had a sensitivity to milk proteins that gave him terrible gas before we found a formula that worked. He had colic. And he had a mild case of reflux. After a month of getting to know him, we had not yet solved these problems for him, and he just was not sleeping. We all know that young babies do not sleep for long periods of time, but after rocking him for half an hour to get him to sleep, he would wake up the second we put him down in his crib.
I asked my pediatrician about this, as it was incredibly exhausting and frustrating for us. She said we could try letting him sleep on his tummy for naps during the day while I could keep an eye on him. When he did so well, my husband and I decided to allow him to sleep on his tummy at night as well.
It was a hard decision, especially since the newest SIDS guidelines had just been announced. There was a lot of guilt involved in allowing him to sleep on his tummy. What if something happened to him? We would never forgive ourselves.
Our Angelcare baby monitor was the best investment for our situation. It has a movement sensor pad that goes under the crib mattress. The sensor detects the movement made by breathing, and an alarm sounds if no movement is detected in 20 seconds. This can startle your baby back into breathing or alert you early enough to contact emergency services if your baby needs to be revived. For any parents of tummy sleepers, I highly recommend this monitor or any other monitor that has a movement sensor.
Other things parents of tummy sleepers can do to ease their minds and keep their babies safe include placing your baby in the middle of the crib and avoiding loose clothing and bedding. You'll need a nice firm mattress to prevent your baby's face from sinking into the bedding. Of course, never leave your baby unattended.
Babies that probably should not be tummy sleepers, regardless of how helpful it is in sleeping, include premies and other babies with multiple SIDS indicators, such as low birth weight and parents who smoke. Parents of babies who prefer their tummies but have other risk factors may want to consider letting their babies sleep in a swing, car seat, or other safe baby gear that keeps your baby at an incline.
How can you respond to people who criticize you for your decision to allow tummy sleeping? That's up to you. Try to remain polite and tactful, even though the other person probably is not. You can inform them of the precautions you are taking (like your baby monitor with the movement sensor) to let them know you did not come to this decision lightly or uninformed. I like telling them that, if my pediatrician does not have a problem with the tummy sleeping, no one else should either. This may or may not appease the other person. It's not your job to appease them. You don't have to explain yourself at all, if you don't want to. Just don't let anyone ever make you feel guilty for making what you feel is the best decision for your baby.