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    Should babies sleep on their back or stomach? Here's the truth

    Updated 26 September 2022 |
    Published 14 August 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Anna Klepchukova, Flo chief medical officer, UK
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    When you have a baby, you want to make sure that you're doing everything you can to keep them safe, healthy, and happy. There's a lot you can do to ensure this. Placing your baby in a safe position when they sleep is very easy, but it can make a big difference to your baby's health.

    Sleeping comes naturally to most adults, so it's easy to underestimate how important it is for your newborn to sleep safely. But creating a safe environment for your baby to sleep in is one of the most crucial things you can do while they're infants.

    Most parents have heard about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS, also known as crib death, occurs when a baby dies unexpectedly and without explanation before their first birthday. Thinking about SIDS can be very stressful for new parents. Fortunately, one of the most effective ways to prevent SIDS is also very simple.

    Putting your baby to sleep on their back carries a much lower risk of SIDS than putting them to sleep on their stomach. In the past, parents were encouraged to put their babies to sleep on their stomach. But as research on SIDS became more common and new discoveries were made, scientists realized that babies who sleep on their stomach have an increased risk of SIDS.

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    The cause of SIDS is still unknown, as is the reason why back sleeping is safer for babies. Experts have theorized that there are several mechanisms that make stomach sleeping unsafe, including:

    • Increased risk of upper airway obstruction
    • The baby might re-breathe the air that they've already exhaled, which could lead to low oxygen levels and carbon dioxide buildup
    • Overheating due to improper body heat dissipation
    • Decreased reactions to noise and other stimuli that should wake them up
    • Abnormally high blood pressure and heart rate while sleeping

    Although putting babies to sleep on their back doesn't make them immune to SIDS, doctors