One of the most common questions that new parents have about their baby’s sleep habits is what position that their baby should sleep in. This is actually a tremendously important question. The fact of the matter is that your baby’s sleep position can actually lead to an increase in the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Knowing what the best sleeping position for your baby will help you avoid that increased risk.

The short answer is this: you should put your baby to sleep on her back. Chances are pretty good you’re going to hear this from lots of folks, including pediatricians, obstetricians, hospital staff, and more.

Even if you’re tempted to put your baby in a different position to try to get her to fall asleep faster, don’t do it. Chances are it won’t help, anyways. When baby can’t sleep, it rarely has anything at all to do with his sleeping position.

Research in this area started in earnest back in the 1970s. Originally, the discoveries came as a result of studying SIDS. SIDS deaths are otherwise unexplainable deaths of healthy infants. About two infants out of a thousand were, at that time, dying of SIDS.

Researchers were astonished. One of the leading factors in SIDS seems to have been babies sleeping on their stomach. By the 1990s, researchers were convinced, and even the American Academy of Pediatrics was recommending back sleeping. Since that time, SIDS rates have dropped in half. (Even so, SIDS is still the leading cause of death after those first few weeks of birth. Approximately 90 percent of babies that die of SIDS do so under six months of age. The most common age for SIDS death is between three and five months old.

Unfortunately, there is no decisive answer as to why back sleeping prevents SIDS. There are some theories, and most of them have to do with the way that the baby breathes. It may be a situation in which baby is breathing back in the same air, creating a carbon dioxide poisoning situation. Other experts believe that overheating may factor into the SIDS equation.