Can Babies Choke On Vomit While Sleeping? Read This Now

Can Babies Choke On Vomit While Sleeping? Read This Now

That depends on whether your little one is sleeping on their back, tummy or side. But as you'll see, there are many reasons why sleeping on the back is best.

I just fed my baby – she’s so full! And here she is just about to doze off into a peaceful nap… But wait a minute. What if she throws up while sleeping? Can babies choke on vomit while sleeping? 

Does this concern sound familiar, mums? Don’t worry, we’ve got some clear answers so that you know how to best position your little one while they are sleeping, to prevent this hazard from occurring. 

“Can babies choke on vomit while sleeping?” 

Simply put, that depends on how they sleep.

Healthy babies sleeping on their backs have a lesser chance of choking on vomit compared to babies who sleep on their stomach or side.

As a matter of fact, napping on their backs helps to protect baby’s airway, too.

A baby asleep on her back will have her upper respiratory airway positioned on top of the oesophagus. The oesophagus is the food pipe –  a tube that enables food to be brought from the mouth into the stomach.

Babies keep their airway safe from liquids by swallowing any milk that’s vomitted out. In fact, the regurgitated milk in the oesophagus remains near the bottom level, making it effortless to swallow.

Moreover, most of the time, babies who do sleep on their backs can also rotate their heads and/or safeguard their airways if they do vomit. Back-sleeping in babies doesn’t seem to cause a greater risk for breathing or digestive-related problems when compared to belly-sleeping babies.

The reason for this is that it is tough for fluids go against gravity and enter the respiratory tract. Therefore, it’s best to let your baby sleep on their back to minimise the risk of choking.

can babies choke on vomit while sleeping

Can babies choke on vomit while sleeping? It’s much less likely to happen while sleeping on their backs, as this image shows. | Image Source: rednose.com.au screengrab

Things are different when babies sleep on their side or tummy…

However, in a baby napping on their stomach, the oesophagus is positioned on top of their airways. Also, infants tend to enter a deeper sleep while asleep on their stomach and swallow less often.

A baby vomiting milk or fluid can risk the liquid collecting at the airway’s entrance. That makes it likelier for the baby to breathe the liquid into their lungs.

A baby napping on her side faces a similar issue. This sleeping position raises the risk of inhaling fluid into the their airway and lungs.

can babies choke on vomit while sleeping

Can babies choke on vomit while sleeping? Possibly, if they sleep on their side or tummy. That’s because the milk flows into airways from the oesophagus while lying in this position. | Image Source: rednose.com.au screengrab

In short, parents, let your little one sleep on their back. Not only is it the safest sleep position, it also minimises the risk of choking, as babies swallow and clear fluids better while asleep on their back.

Other back-sleeping concerns that aren’t true

Parents, especially new parents, would be especially aware of the advantages that sleeping on the back offers. For instance, many would already know that sleeping on the back can prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

However, in reality, many might still be concerned about possible dangers that could befall their little one when letting them sleep on their backs. Here are the usual causes of concern aside from the question, “Can babies choke on vomit sleeping?” which result in parents worrying unnecessarily:

Flat heads

It’s accurate to say that the structure of your newborn’s head isn’t fully defined yet and her sleeping position does have a role to play in how the head is shaped. However, flat heads shouldn’t be a major issue for many back-sleeping babies. That is mainly because you have full control of their position, parents.

The only thing you have to do is rotate the direction your little one is facing every time they lie down on their back — both while sleeping and awake.

Giving your newborn lots of opportunities for tummy time and other positions aside from lying on their back while awake will also reduce the chances of a flat or misshapen head.

Delayed milestones

Some parents might chance upon the information that napping on the back is linked to delayed motor development. In particular, the ability to roll over for the first time. Rest assured, parents, that it all works out in the end. 

Overall, making your little one’s muscles stronger so that they can roll or reducing the chances of your little one getting a flat head can be easily achieved if you give your little one a lot of time to crawl on their belly while awake.

Parents, we hope that this article answering your question on “Can babies choke on vomit while sleeping?” has helped. If you liked this article, consider sharing it on your social media platform!

References: healthychildren.org, rednose

Also Read:

Follow these guidelines to keep your baby safe while sleeping

Is it safe to let babies sleep on their tummies with their bottom up?

Safest sleeping position for your baby

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