I came across a disturbing reference to pacifiers and how it was shown to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In Part I of this post, I described the reason why back sleeping, while lowering SIDS by 40%, could actually impair proper brain development. Both back sleeping and pacifiers are thought to work by keeping the baby in a lighter stage of sleep. Here’s why I think this is a bad idea:
When babies are first born, 50% of sleep is REM sleep and essentially no deep sleep (slow wave sleep). But around 2-3 months slow wave sleep begins to develop. Furthermore, this is the time in which your baby’s voice box slowly begins to drop lower in the throat, creating a space between the soft palate and the voice box that the tongue can fall back into and obstruct your breathing. Due to gravity, the tongue can fall back more easily, especially in deeper stages of sleep, when your muscles are more relaxed.
Promoting pacifiers to put infants to sleep is also a bad idea, since any kind of artificial nipple can aggravate dental crowding and malocclusion. Having something to suckle on all the time while sleeping can definitely keep infants in a lighter stage of sleep.
There are countless studies that show that deep sleep deprivation can have profound and detrimental effects the infant’s memory consolidation and brain development. It’s no wonder there’s been so many issues these days with younger children and behavioral, cognitive, and developmental delays, not to mention an increased incidence of allergies, asthma, and various other hypersensitivity reactions. I predict that as a society, we’re going to have pay for it in one way or another.
What’s your opinion on this issue? Should we keep things the same, and accept the consequences of a 40% lower SIDS rate? Or should we seriously look into this issue and make changes to the back sleeping recommendation, perhaps do it only for high-risk infants, or come up with better monitoring technology to prevent SIDS? I suspect that even if a definitive study came out proving my point, the medical institution will be reluctant to make any changes to their stance on this issue.