When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read every parenting magazine I could get my hands on. Each one contained an article about SIDS, the silent and mysterious killer of babies. What could be more terrifying to a new mother than a condition that she could neither predict nor understand? What was a concerned parent to do to protect her child? Simple. Place the baby on her back to sleep.
The doctors and nurses in the hospital had me so paranoid about sudden infant death syndrome, that I religiously complied with their back to sleep recommendation. If I couldn’t hear Areli while she slept, I would check on her. The first few times she slept through the night, I would wake up almost in a panic, wondering if she was still alive. When she was a few months old and sleeping in her own room, I would wake up in the middle of the night and worry about whether she was ok. I would slip out of bed to check on her, because if I waited until morning, it might be too late. Finally, after this happened several times, I decided that I was being ridiculous. I could not worry constantly about her safety! I would drive myself insane! I decided to pray a simple prayer instead.
“Please, Holy Spirit, protect my baby. Wake me up and tell me if there is something wrong with her. Make sure I am there if she needs me.”
The Holy Spirit did wake me up one night. It was still and quiet and I found myself in the hallway. I don’t even know why I was there. I became aware of a strange odor and followed it into Areli’s room. Areli, the sweet baby that she was, must have felt sick, quietly vomited in her crib, and then curled up in the only clean spot left. She was fast asleep! I cleaned everything and put her back to bed, so thankful that she didn’t have to stay in that state until morning.
I still put Areli on her back to sleep, but as soon as she learned how to roll over, she would choose to sleep on her belly every time.
When my second baby was born, I also put him on his back to sleep. I was a bit more relaxed, having seen one baby safely to toddlerhood. Cole just was not a good sleeper. He was restless and fitful. Friends of ours returned from a class they had just attended at the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia. They shared with us what the Institute thought about the Back to Sleep Campaign. The entire campaign had been based on a fairly small study that they considered to be very flawed (grouping infants who had been crushed under sleeping parents with the belly sleepers). Sure, a baby sleeping in a bed surrounded by blankets and pillows and other people may be in danger of suffocation, but what did that have to do with belly sleeping?
The Institute noted how there is not a single animal that sleeps on its back. Why is that? Because there is no protection and no function. All animals naturally prefer the belly down position and babies are no different. They feel more secure, more comfortable, and what’s more, they develop faster. They build their muscles and achieve their developmental milestones faster. The Institute not only suggested that all babies sleep on their bellies, but that they also spend most of their waking hours that way as well. In fact, if you wanted a physically and intellectually superior child, you could build him a crawling track and allow him to sleep in it (and be awake in it as well) to encourage crawling which stimulates the brain. Babies are able to start belly crawling immediately after birth and should be allowed to do so. We observed this first hand when we put Cadin on the floor to sunbathe when he was just a few days old. We let him sleep there for a few hours and he crawled halfway across the room!
“A floor equals civilization,” they would say. This means that any culture that has floors safe enough to place their babies on, would develop a written language and higher math skills. Cultures that could not allow their babies time on the floor, such as some American Indians and primitive tribes in Africa and South America, stayed more…well…primitive. In these cultures, mom would carry her baby tightly wrapped up on her back because it wasn’t safe or efficient to put them down. This allowed the babies little opportunity to move, roll over, scoot, or crawl. They became brilliant craftsman and hunters but never developed a written language or higher math skills. We need to be careful that we don’t adopt a more modern version of this method of child rearing; restricting our baby’s movements and development using baby slings, baby swings, exer-saucers, and car seats.
To learn more about the amazing programs and results of the Institute, read How to Multiply your Baby’s Intelligence and How to Teach Your Baby to be Physically Superb (or the updated version Fit Baby, Smart Baby, Your Baby). I love these books and have used many of their techniques with most of my babies. The old pictures in the Physically Superb book are Matthew and Carol Newell with their young child. I worked with Matthew and Carol when I took Ashlyn (my special needs daughter) to the Family Hope Center, which they started. By that time their son had graduated from college, and they reported that he had amazing grades, was a Shakespearian actor and a triathlete. I know that this is a bit off topic, but I find brain development to be fascinating.
Once I heard the viewpoint of the Institute, I decided to try it. As soon as I turned Cole on his belly to sleep, he immediately slept better. His sleep was longer and more peaceful. He was also able to get rid of gas by pulling his knees up and let out little baby toots. My fear of belly sleeping was officially gone. Since then, I have laid all of my babies on their bellies to sleep, and they all have been very happy that way. Of course I made sure that there was nothing else in the bed with them and that their sheets were fitted tight around the mattress.
My opinion of the Back to Sleep Campaign is that it is very similar to most of the campaigns launched by the medical community – propaganda based more in emotions (usually fear) that in real science. If you would like to read more in depth about this subject with specific studies, Click here. I was notified of an excellent article that offers real answers to crib death and real prevention that has been 100% effective in preventing crib death in New Zealand; Has the Cause of Crib Death Been Found?
Parents, you do not have to live in fear that SIDS might claim the life of your precious child! Only God knows the plans he has for your child, only God knows the number of his days. Yes, some babies do die unexpectedly, and it is always sad. The number is really very small, only around .06% of all babies. I believe that there is a reason for those deaths; theories include vaccinations, second hand smoke, toxins in the mattress, bacteria, or a toxic overload of many things at once. I do not believe it is caused by a baby sleeping on his belly. I am not saying that you SHOULD put your baby on his belly to sleep. I am simply giving you the FREEDOM to do so if you want to. (I also hope you have the freedom to question what health care professionals and the media tell you.)
So parents everywhere, pray over your little ones. Put their lives into God’s loving hands. Ask him for the wisdom to eliminate dangers and bring peace into your home. And enjoy a good night’s sleep, free from fear!