Should You Be Afraid to Let Your Baby Sleep on Her Belly?

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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.

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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?

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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.)

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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!

Happy Heavenly Birthday Dad!

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My Father, George Redman Beyer, passed away last year on July 31.  In honor of him, I would like to post here the words I spoke at his memorial service.

 

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All you who knew George, whether it was for 5 minutes or fifty years, knew that he was very kind, calm, patient, slow, methodical, and very intelligent.

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He loved history and could remember facts and figures with an almost photographic memory.  Most of those official blue and yellow signs you see around the state of PA were written by my Dad.  When I was little I couldn’t remember the name of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, so I just told people that my Dad was a Historical Marker Maker.  They gave me funny looks.

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I got even stranger reactions when I told them that we were Quakers and went to Meeting instead of Church.  Dad was always a man of peace.  I almost never heard him criticize other people and I almost never saw him get angry.

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In recent years, he had to bear with my five wild boys running around the house with nerf guns, squirt guns, and cap guns.  Still he was very patient with them.  He spent hour after hour after hour reading to all the grandchildren, snuggling on the sofa.

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He answered question after question, read book after book.  He rejoiced at the birth of every new grandchild and enjoyed them immensely.

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This was an intense week for our family.  Dad was sent to the emergency room on Monday with blood clots in his lungs.  He stopped breathing and received CPR three times.  When I saw him that evening, he was unconscious and the hospital was still trying to stabilize him.  That night I prayed those deep, desperate prayers.  I love it how God draws so near to me in times like these.  I felt like He said to me, “This will end in death, but it is OK.”  Then I saw a picture in my mind.  I saw my dad as a young boy, running in the summer twilight.

scan23He had perfect shalom, “perfect peace, nothing broken, and nothing missing.”  He was running into the arms of God the Father.  They both had such joy and excitement about being together.

On Tuesday the hospital thought they might be able to stabilize Dad and wake him up.  Then we received a call that he had taken a turn for the worse, and we better get in there as soon as we could.  Again I began praying in the car, and I was desperate with God.  I said, “You can’t let him die if he’s not ready, if it is not his time.  I haven’t done enough. I haven’t told him enough about you.  I haven’t shown him enough love.”  Again the sweet presence of God surrounded me and said, “It is already done.  I have already done it all.  All that is left is to trust me.

So as we sat in Dad’s room watching him peacefully pass away, I again thought of him running into the arms of his Father.  I heard the Father God say to him, “George, it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do in your lifetime.  I want you! You are my reward; You are my pearl of great price.”

Mom told me in hospital that Dad had recently attended a conference at Life Center and loved the Song, “Abba” which means Daddy. (Click here to listen to the wonderful song.) We sang that song in Worship tonight.  This confirmed to me that he had a longing in his heart to know God as his Daddy, and now his heart’s desire is fulfilled.  He feels for the first time the full strength of the unconditional, all consuming love of the Father.  Dad had loving parents and a loving family.  Loving relationships are the joy of this life.  But they are just the first morning rays of sunlight peaking over the horizon.  Now he is standing in the brightness of noonday, and I am so happy for him!

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I love how God gives us signs to explain what is happening in the unseen realm.  He gave me a sign.  My mom had transplanted lot of flowers from her yard to into my yard.  The irises and hyacinths have been blooming for many years now, but I have never seen the resurrection lily.  I just thought it had died, and I had forgotten about it.  But the day after my Dad died, I looked out my window and I saw it blooming!

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I love you Dad!