The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy infants be placed on their backs for sleep, as this is the safest position for an infant to sleep.
Apart from the risk of (SIDS) Sudden Infant death Syndrome, the baby’s spine may be affected by sleeping on their tummy. SIDS is defined as a condition where a baby just stops breathing.
Being born is tough work, there are a lot of pressures and forces being exerted onto your baby during their journey into the world. A current study demonstrated that 90% of newborns suffered birth trauma and associated strain through the neck and cranial areas following birth.
The first year of life is also the time of spinal curvature development. Looking at our spines from the side, you would see that it takes the form of an “s”-shape curve, we’re not born this way as infants we have an elongated c-shaped curve.
As our spine develops into the “s”-shaped curve, there are curves called “lordosis” present in your neck and lower back, and curves called a “kyphosis” in your mid-back and sacrum. These spinal curves are necessary for movement, balance, upright posture, protection, and shock absorption. Without being in alignment during this crucial time your baby’s spinal curves may not develop properly – giving them a poor foundation for later in life.
The biomechanics of a baby’s body is all wrong when they’re sleeping on their tummies. When a baby is placed on his or her belly for sleep, the head and neck will be in constant rotation to one side or the other. This rotation along with the pressure and weight of the head holding it in rotation causes continuous irritation to the cervical spinal cord and nerves. When a baby is placed on his or her back, there is no stress to the baby’s neck or lower cranium.
In infants the central nervous system also controls their growth and development. Being the time of greatest brain and proprioceptor (body position sensors) development, you want to ensure the health of the nervous system. This is what a chiropractor who takes care of babies look for, disturbances in their nervous systems that interfere with healthy growth and development.
Although we are not advocates of babies SLEEPING on their tummies, we always suggested supervised tummy time, read more about that in the articles below