Safeguard Baby During Sleep
Now that she has children of her own, Susan Sorensen, MD, a pediatrician in Reno, Nevada, offers her advice with a dose of reality. She understands, for instance, that some newborns really do like to be held all the time, and that it's not worth battling an 18-month-old who wants a pacifier morning, noon, and night. These days, she is unwavering on only a couple of issues. One of them is "back to sleep," the practice of putting babies to bed on their back (also known as the supine position). It's the sleep position that, since 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended for babies as an important way to reduce a baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Back Sleep Is Best
"It's non-negotiable," says Dr. Sorensen. "When a parent tells me that her baby 'won't' sleep any other way but on its stomach, I literally can't listen." Pediatrician David Zucker, MD, Sorensen's first medical partner, influenced her position on the issue: "During my first 20 years in practice, I got about six calls a year from the coroner," says Dr. Zucker, who is also in Reno. "I would be called to patients' homes to examine babies who had died for no obvious reason," he says. "When the back-to-sleep guidelines first came out, I was skeptical that the number of crib deaths would decrease," he admits. "But the fact is, the numbers are lower, and I can't remember the last time I had one of those calls," he says.
Dr. Sorensen says she still frequently has parents who protest her back-to-sleep recommendation. "When parents insist that an older child slept on his stomach and was 'fine,'" she says, "all I can say is, 'You were lucky.'"