As you may know by now, sleep position is a very important issue for me and I write about it quite often. When I recently came across this article in Slate magazine, I just had to comment. The gist of the article is that since the start of the back to sleep campaign in 1992, the rate of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) has been cut 50%. But there seems to be a downside: Parents are being overly cautious and not allowing enough tummy time when their children are awake. As a result, it’s been suggested that motor skill development such as lifting the head or rolling over, has been significantly delayed.
The arguments in this article are plausible, but a more immediate issue that’s completely being ignored is the fact then when babies are forced to sleep on their backs, by definition, you’re preventing them from staying in deep sleep. The thinking is that supine sleep allows infants to wake up easier if they ever obstruct. There are tomes of data that show that lack of deep sleep can have significant detrimental effects on your memory consolidation, affect, executive functioning, and motor skills. Imagine what can happen if you force this on an infant’s developing brain. It’s no wonder there’s been an epidemic of pediatric developmental, behavioral, and medical problems in the past few decades. It’s even been suggested that the incidence of autism spiked just after the back to sleep campaign was implemented.
Honestly, I don’t know what the right answer is. I’m not saying that we should place all our infants on their stomachs. However, this is an important issue that needs to be discussed, even if it means that the medical profession has to admit this was not the best thing to do.
What’s your opinion on this issue? How well was your baby able to sleep on his or her back?