Parents of new babies have been asking me more and more questions about the best and safest way to put their infants down to sleep. I dont want to lie down on the job with this topic, so let me provide some advice.
The biggest concern for newborn babies, particularly regarding their sleep is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a disease that can occur in the first year of life, usually around two or three months of age. The best way to reduce the incidence of SIDS is to put infants down to sleep on their back. This simple step has proven effective, reducing the number of SIDS deaths by half, such that nowadays there is less than a 1-in-1000 chance that babies placed on their back will die of SIDS.
If you are concerned that your babies will choke if put down to sleep on their back, be reassured. There is no evidence to support that this is an issue in otherwise healthy infants. Also, try to avoid propping babies up on their side to sleep (as a compromise position between their back and belly), since babies in this position are more likely to roll onto their belly during the night, increasing the risk for SIDS.
Experts still arent exactly sure why sleeping on the back decreases the risk for SIDS, but many think that it may be because it improves the babys ability to breathe freely and helps him or her to not overheat.
Laying a baby down on his or her back is only one step you can take to reduce the risk of SIDS. Make sure the bedding you use includes a firm mattress. Dont put fluffy blankets or comforters under the baby and dont let the baby sleep on a waterbed, sheepskin, pillow, or other soft materials, such as stuffed animals.