In my previous post, a picture of our son sleeping, a concerned blog friend mentioned that the current thinking is that sleeping on belly may increase the risk for SIDS. As with most things, our decision to buck the current medical trend with our children hasn't come lightly, but rather with an extensive survey of the current research and a formulation of my own professional opinion.
That being said, here's some ground rules for this post:
1. This post is being made with the utmost respect for the person who made the original comment. (Every time I'm on your page and see the pictures of your little friend my heart breaks a little--I can't imagine the devastation of losing a child.)
2. This post is a statement of my own opinion. Albeit my professional opinion and soundly backed with current research, it is still just an opinion. And as people say, opinions are like bungholes--everyone has got one, and sometimes they stink.
3. Since this is a hot button issue, I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions, but please keep it respectful and friendly--no dog-piling allowed. :)
The thing about SIDS is that nobody really knows why it happens. I think this is true for a couple of reasons. The diagnosis is incredibly broad. Any otherwise healthy baby that has an unexplained crib death is labeled with SIDS. My gut instinct is that we are lumping several disease processes together at a minimum. Secondly, I think the true cause of SIDS is probably multi-factorial. I think the quick reversal from back to belly to back as the preferred sleep position in such a short time is also indicative of this lack of true understanding.
Here's why we feel safe with our children sleeping on their bellies:
1. They get regular chiropractic adjustments. Much of the cutting edge research about the mechanism of SIDS shows that many babies have suffered a malposition or abnormal motion of the upper cervical area of the spine--namely the occiput in relation to C1, and C1 in relation to C2. The research shows that the upper cervical vertebrae can impinge on the brain stem in the location of the breathing centers. This is exactly the type of thing I was trained to find, diagnose, and correct in my post-graduate chiropractic work with infants and children. A simple, safe, non-forceful adjustment can eliminate this lesion.
How does this lesion happen? It can be mechanical, possibly from birth trauma--damaged with the forceful twisting and pulling that the modern birth process is known for. Oh and safe with a C-section? Actually, no, C-section delivery is often times more forceful than vaginal. The lesion can also occur in response to toxins in the body or stressful situations--but more about that later.
In a side note, the research is now showing this exact type of lesion in many Shaken Baby Syndrome cases. This type of upper cervical lesion has been demonstrated to cause all the tell tale symptoms of SBS. The strange thing is that it may appear in babies that haven't been shaken, leading to false diagnosis, and false accusations of parents. Also important to note is that many babies that HAVE been shaken do NOT demonstrate the cardinal signs, leading to missed diagnoses.
2. Our kids aren't inflamed, and therefore at a much lower risk. Respiration is a parasympathetic process, and in our insane world we are completely sympathetically over-driven. I hear you now though, "Are you saying even our babies are stressed out?!?" Well, in a word, I'd say, "Yes." But not in manner that you might think. Clearly most babies have it on easy street--eat, sleep, poop, repeat. But mom's lifestyle while carrying baby directly affects the fetus, so unless mom was chillin at the Zen Spa for 9 months, baby starts life stressed out.
Now lets look at diet. Dairy based baby formulas increase inflammation. That's all there is to it. They just do, because they are dairy based. Next, baby gets moved to grain based cereals which is straight up inflammation in a bottle. And then it's on to whole foods that contain preservatives, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup--all inflammatory.
Thirdly, I have to mention immunizations, because the undisputed fact is that the contents of immunizations absolutely increase inflammation. The most common side-effect from vaccines is fever, redness and swelling--3 of the 5 cardinal signs of inflammation.
Inflammation can be a good thing--the body is designed to respond that way to speed healing. The problem is that we never resolve our inflammation these days--it's constant and additive. The inflammatory responses are intimately connected to the sympathetic nervous system, which in itself inhibits the parasympathetic system. This isn't cutting edge science here, it's simple physiology.
So in our case, we work very hard to make sure our kids aren't inflamed. They aren't immunized so they have normal functioning immune systems. They breast feed--which is great in two ways--no formula, and breast milk itself reduces inflammation. When they move to whole foods they eat organic, preservative free food with no artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup.
In a nutshell, that's why we're comfortable with our babies on their bellies. They just sleep better that way, and if the major contributing factors to SIDS are reduced, then I don't see the problem.