Babies should ALWAYS sleep on their backs

As a new parent, you may have difficulty fending off newborn sleep advice from grandparents and friends. On top of advice, there seems to be a dizzying array of infant sleep products on the market. At OHSU Doernbecher, we recommend families adhere to the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines and place babies on their back for every sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Babies who sleep on their stomachs are much more likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their backs. Once babies are old enough to roll over in the middle of the night, you do not need to return them to their back.

We don’t know exactly what causes SIDS, but we do know the following practices help reduce the risk:

  • Receive regular prenatal care.
  • Avoid alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth.
  • Put baby to sleep on a firm surface.
  • Sleep in the same room, but avoid bed sharing.
  • Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib.
  • Avoid overheating.
  • Avoid smoke exposure during pregnancy and after birth.
  • Do not use home monitors that are marketed to reduce risk of SIDS; they have not been proved to reduce risk.
  • Breastfeed your baby.
  • Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.

Babies who usually sleep on their backs but are placed on their stomachs for a nap are at very high risk for SIDS. So it’s important for everyone who cares for your baby to use the back sleep position for naps and at night.

Since the Back to Sleep campaign began in 1994, the SIDS rate in the United States has declined by more than 50 percent. Talk to all of the caregivers involved in your newborn’s care to ensure that each sleep is a safe one for your baby.

Elizabeth Super, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Doernbecher Pediatric Sleep Medicine Program
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital


“SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment,” Pediatrics 2011; 128; 1030