Sleeping on Back to Prevent SIDS Doesn't Appear to Hurt Babies' Ability to Roll

FRIDAY, June 7 (HealthDay News) -- Having babies sleep on their back to reduce their risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) does not affect the development of their ability to roll, according to a new study.

Some concern existed that the introduction of the Back to Sleep campaign (now called Safe to Sleep) 20 years ago would reduce the time that infants spent on their stomachs and impair their gross motor development, particularly their ability to roll from their stomach to their back, and from their back to their stomach.

But a Canadian researcher who looked at the rolling abilities and motor skills development of 725 infants aged 1 week to 8 months found that their ability to roll was much the same as it was among infants 20 years ago.

"Infant gross motor development hasn't changed that much in 20 years," study author Johanna Darrah, a professor of physical therapy at the University of Alberta, said in a university news release. "The thought that babies first roll from their tummy to their back, before they go from their back to their tummy, does not appear to be the case. For most babies, they happen very close together."

She said the findings, published in the May issue of the journal Early Human Development, are especially valuable for early childhood development specialists.

"Our results would suggest that gross motor skills emerge in the same order and at the same ages as 20 years ago," Darrah said. "The environment is of course important to gross motor development, but the change in a sleeping position hasn't made much difference as to when babies roll from stomach to back."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development explains the importance of having infants sleep on their backs.

SOURCE: University of Alberta, news release, June 3, 2013