Those of you who have raised a child to the tender age of about 30 to 40-something may have been told by a pediatrician to put your baby on her stomach to sleep. This was to avoid any possibility of the baby choking on spit-up.
Recent studies however, have shifted that line of thought to putting babies on their backs to sleep. Studies have shown this will reduce the incidence of crib death by 50%, and all doctors will mention this to new parents. Ours did. Pretty sternly, as I recall.
With Helen, I tried. I honestly did. But I learned very quickly that with a preemie, Helen slept best perched on either my chest or her daddy's, and shifting her to her back in her bassinet just meant she startled herself awake in about 10 minutes at most. So after about 2 weeks of getting very little sleep, I put her on her tummy.
She slept for 2 hours straight. I knew I had hit upon something.
At her 2-month appointment for shots, I threatened Brian within an inch of his life if he told the pediatrician about the tummy sleeper I was raising. I think she must have known, given how round the back of her head still appeared to be, but I just kept smiling and nodding and saying, "Sure, she's on her back to sleep at night." I felt like an awful parent, especially with all of the data out there proving I was doing something wrong, but knowing how important a few hours of sleep in a row would be for BOTH of us, I thought I was doing the right thing.
Fortunately, it turned out just fine. And now Helen ALWAYS sleeps on her tummy. I have a strong memory of her in the crib with those little chubby legs tucked up underneath her, head turned to the side, mouth slightly open, sound asleep. I have gone to pick her up at daycare during naptime - she's always under her blanket on her mat, sleeping on her tummy. I have gone in to wake her up in the mornings for school - she's lying in her bed on her tummy. She curls up on her daddy sometimes at night while we watch TV - resting with her cheek on his chest puts her right to sleep.
After 3 weeks with Alice, I've discovered that I've given birth to another tummy sleeper. She slept so well on her back at the hospital that I tried for a while to put her on her side or her back to sleep. At first, it was fine, but gradually it has stopped working. She sleeps on me just fine (cradled in my arms or resting on my chest), but now startles awake very quickly if I put her on her back. I've tried propping her on her side with blankets around her, and I've tried swaddling, but it doesn't last long. Finally, I tried putting her on her tummy, and sure enough, she slept for hours like that.
At her 2-week appointment with the pediatrician, the doctor was checking her out, and put Alice on her tummy on the examining table to see if she could lift her head. Instead, Alice turned her head to the side, found her thumb, jammed it in her mouth and sucked it. Eyes closed, legs curled up behind her, sucking away - the doctor was in awe. "Now THAT'S a picture," she exclaimed.
I smiled, weakly. "That's amazing," I said. "She never finds her thumb at home."