It’s hard to believe, but some people are still not convinced that it is best to place your baby on her back to sleep. The logic used to defend using other sleeping positions (usually by placing baby on her stomach) is that the medical community used to recommend placing babies to sleep on their tummies and that these kinds of thought patterns within the medical community are cyclical (i.e., if you give it a few years, they’re be recommending tummy sleep again).
While you can’t help but admit they have a point about the cyclical nature of medical advice, there is a large enough body of evidence that points to stomach sleeping as one of the primary causes of SIDS that it is unlikely that the medical community will be changing its mind on the issue anytime soon. By simply encouraging parents to lay their babies down on their backs to sleep, the United States has seen a reduction in SIDS of nearly 40%. The UK has had even more remarkable results, with SIDS being reduced by 70%.
Of course, stomach sleeping is not the only risk factor for SIDS. Other issues, such as smoking in the house (especially around the baby) and having objects which baby could suffocate on in the crib also lead to SIDS, but stomach sleeping is by far thought to be the main contributor.
The most recent development in SIDS is the call by the FDA for companies to stop making baby sleep positioners. The positioners, which are used to keep baby wedged into a particular sleeping position (often on her side) have been the cause of thirteen baby deaths, all by suffocation. While there is not yet an outright ban on the devices, it is expected that there soon will be. In any case, parents should not use baby sleep positioners.
Your baby should sleep on her back for as long as you can get her to stay there. It’s especially important that you lie her down to sleep on her back for the first year of life, when the risk of SIDS is at its greatest. However, when baby develops to the point that she rolls herself over onto her stomach, most experts agree that it is OK to leave her that way if she is sleeping.