I am writing this post as I should be going to sleep, but I couldn't get to sleep without getting this one off my chest. Early this week I got a very sad email. It was a prayer request for a woman in my bible group to pray for her daughter, as her grandson died over the weekend of SIDS.
Every new mother's nightmare. I know, because I saw it happen when I was nine years old. I was at my grandmother's funeral reception. My cousin and I had just been upstairs to check on the baby (her sister) and I came back downstairs. A few minutes later she called for my aunt and then I heard the scream. I remember my mom sprinting up the stairs and desperately trying infant CPR. My cousin Evelyn died when she was just 3 months old.
Just recently my cousin and I talked about that day and how it has affected our parenting. I remember checking on my first son every night to make sure he was breathing. I remember putting him on his back every night and making sure there was nothing near his face while he was sleeping. I bordered on neurotic. I was so afraid of losing him, my little love.
Putting my first son on his back to sleep was easy. He slept like a champ, and he still does to this day. Recently he even slept through a fire alarm one night (thankfully a false alarm). My second child, however, does not have the same magical sleeping patterns. Around 2 months old, it felt like his sleeping stretches were getting shorter and not longer. My husband and I were exhausted and I started trying to figure out how to make it better. I asked around, looked up the topic online, and the result: people talked about sleeping positions. I read countless comments and heard people talking about how their children sleep better on their tummies.
Sigh...I know Levi is uncomfortable on his back, but resort to sleeping on his tummy? I just didn't think I could handle it. But sleep deprivation will lead to desperation. I started to toy with the idea. I brought it up at a baby brunch that weekend with some high school friends and one of my friends reeled me back in. She said "You know, the rate of SIDS has gone down a lot since they put babies on their backs". Bingo. It's true. I knew it was true. I needed to do some research and find another way.
My husband did some research too. He found out that basically every baby would sleep better on their tummy--and that is the whole problem. They sleep so well that if they begin breathing in the same air that is trapped near their face, they don't wake up because they are sleeping too deeply. He found that the best ways to help babies who are uncomfortable on their backs, is to swaddle them really tightly or to help them sleep on their side.
Since we tried those recommendations to no avail, I did what any other concerned mommy would do and I brought it up at his 2 month appointment. My pediatrician listened to his bedtime routine and thought about it for a minute. His thought: "He relies too much on sucking to sleep. Get rid of the pacifier. When he wakes up a little and realizes it is not in his mouth, it wakes him up. I am NOT going to recommend he sleep on his tummy." Wow. I hadn't even thought of that. My husband and I were pretty skeptical. But, since we were desperate we gave it a whirl.
The first night was terrible. He cried and got up almost every hour and sometimes every half hour. The next night was pretty much the same. I almost gave up on it, only the next night got better. Then the next night even better. By the 4th night, we could put him down awake and he would get himself to sleep. Huh. He also started arching his own back and getting himself on his side to feel more comfortable. The end result: he was sleeping better and we were sleeping better and he didn't have to sleep on his tummy.
The moral of the story I guess, is that I get it when your baby isn't sleeping well. It is really tempting to help him sleep better by putting him on his tummy. But, it isn't worth it. Losing some sleep a few weeks or months, is much better than mourning. Talk to your doctor and see if there are other things you can try to help your baby sleep more soundly. But don't jump to putting them on their bellies especially before he/she is rolling over. You know, I know the risk is small in general and chances are your baby would be fine. However, it has affected my life enough to know that is DOES happen. I know the guilt that the parents feel when they lose a child. I know I couldn't live with the guilt. Could you?
Here are the steps you can take to reduce the risk of SIDS http://www.sids.org/nprevent.htm. They won't eliminate the risk completely, as there are cases where infants sleeping on their backs have died of SIDS as well, but it will greatly reduce the risk.
I hope this helps. Just know that other moms are right there with you when your baby isn't sleeping well and keep hanging in there. Pretty soon he/she will be sleeping better and better.
Just remember to put your baby "Back to Sleep".
In health and wellness,