Baby Sleeping On Stomach? Here’s What You Need To Know.

Baby Sleeping On Stomach

If you’re a parent in the 21st century, then you’ve no doubt heard the recommendations about safe sleeping for babies, right? By now, just about every new parent understands that the safest way for a baby to sleep is on her back, and not on her stomach. Why? Because back sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS (presumably because it reduces the risk of baby re-breathing carbon dioxide and therefore not getting enough oxygen).

This recommendation was the cornerstone of the 1994 Back to Sleep campaign, and at that time, it was fairly earth-shattering. Up until 1994, parents were urged to place their babies on their tummies to sleep, since it reduced the risk that baby would spit up and then choke during the night.

But here’s what’s tricky: in our experience, some babies seem to prefer sleeping on their stomachs. And typically, once a baby can roll onto his stomach, he’ll roll mid-nap, or in the middle of the night, and end up sleeping on his stomach.

This is what we’re discussing today. If your baby just won’t sleep on her back, can you put her to bed on her stomach? And what should you do when your baby is able to roll from her back to her stomach during sleep? Should you leave her on her stomach, or should you roll her back the other way?

Baby Sleeping On Stomach: What If My Baby Prefers To Sleep That Way

Oh, this is tricky. First off, it’s important to remember that we are not in the business of dispensing medical advice here on The Baby Sleep Site®, so when it comes to determine the safest sleeping arrangements for your baby, you should absolutely talk to your healthcare provider.

That said – we’d first advise that you try to get your baby used to lying on his back. While many babies seem to prefer to sleep on their stomaches, a baby can get used to lying on his back, and will eventually grow more comfortable sleeping that way. So try this as a first step: have your baby spend time on his back, during his awake time, and try to start off each nap and bedtime with your baby on his back.

If your baby is still fussing like crazy, then you may want to try swaddling your baby for sleep. Many babies object to back sleeping because they can’t curl up tightly into their snug fetal positions, the way they can when they’re on their stomaches. But if you swaddle your baby snugly, you can re-create that cozy, womb-like feel while still placing your child on her back. Just be sure to follow safe swaddling recommendations.

If your baby just will not settle and sleep on his back, however – even when swaddled – then you may need to talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not it’s safe for your baby to sleep on his stomach. No one other than your healthcare provider is qualified to comment on the safety of putting your baby to sleep on his stomach, so it’s important that you have this conversation.

Now, if your healthcare provider clears it, then you can try placing your baby on his stomach for sleeping. As many SIDS researchers point out, most babies will naturally assume the sleeping position that will allow them to breathe freely and comfortably, so provided your baby is healthy and full-term, and that your healthcare provider is on board, it is probably okay to allow your baby to sleep on his stomach, if he just won’t sleep on his back.

Baby Sleeping On Stomach: If My Baby Rolls, Can I Just Leave Her On Her Stomach?

This is a question that our consultants hear quite often in the Helpdesk, so we thought we’d take some time to answer it for you here. The fact is, while it may be relatively easy to place your baby on her back for sleep when she’s a newborn, that newborn will quickly become mobile: by about 3-4 months of age, many babies are learning to roll, and while rolling is an important milestone that paves the way for even greater mobility in the coming months, it concerns many parents when they check in on their babies and find them sleeping on their stomachs.

So what’s a safety-focused parent to do? Do you leave your baby on her stomach, or do you roll your baby over again onto her back, and risk waking her up?

Again, it’s important that you talk to your healthcare provider about your baby’s sleeping position, particularly if your baby is premature or has health problems. That said, it’s widely accepted that if your baby has the ability to roll from her back onto her stomach, she likely also has the muscle control and neurological maturity to regulate their breathing well, and to shift their position if they are not getting enough oxygen. In other words, a baby who can roll onto her stomach can no doubt sleep safely that way. It is recommend that you start each sleep time by putting your baby down on her back, but then, if she rolls onto her stomach, you can leave her to sleep that way.

Baby Sleeping On Stomach: As Always, Follow Safe Sleep Guidelines

It is always important that you follow safe sleeping guidelines with your baby – but if your baby will be spending any time sleeping on her stomach, then it’s downright crucial.

Here’s a quick overview of safe sleeping recommendations that you’ll want to follow in your home:

  • Your baby should sleep on a firm surface that’s covered by a tight-fitting sheet.
  • There should be no loose bedding, soft pillows, or stuffed toys in your baby’s sleeping area.
  • It’s safest if your baby is sleeping near your bed (so that you can keep an eye on her), but not sleeping in your bed, which carries risks of suffocation. (That said, we pass no judgment on parents who make informed decisions to bed-share, and who do so safely.)
  • Try running a fan in your baby’s room – there’s evidence that it can reduce SIDS risks by up to 72%.
  • Speaking of fans – overheating is linked to SIDS, so dress your baby in light layers for sleep, and keep the bedroom temperature on the cool side.

Baby Sleep Help That Works – Guaranteed!

Whether your baby is rolling or not, baby sleep problems can be tough to deal with. You want your baby to sleep safely, but you also want your baby to…you know…sleep! Not to worry – we can help. Our consultants at The Baby Sleep Site® specialize in creating Personalized Sleep Plans™ that are customized to your own parenting philosophy, and that will NEVER make you feel guilty or pressured. Even better, once you have your Personalized Sleep Plan™, your consultant will walk you through each step of implementing it at home.

Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Share your back vs. stomach sleeping tips and experiences with us!

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Should Baby Really Sleep on Her Tummy?

I remember when I brought my son home from the hospital, my mom came to help for a week and she told me a couple of times that I should let him sleep on his tummy and maybe that was going to be the only way he was going to sleep. As if!

I was a new and scared mom and EVERYTHING I read said to put baby on his back. There was no wavering in the things I read. Come on mom, the AAP constantly says “Tummy to Play, Back to Sleep” and that’s what I wanted to follow, too. After all, they know more than me, right?

Occasionally, I get a parent who says that they could only get their baby to sleep on her tummy, so that’s what they did. Is that parent wrong to have her baby sleep on her tummy? Should babies really be sleeping on their tummy and that’s why we all struggle so much with sleep these days?

Pam, of SIDS of Illinois said it very well:

“The great thing about being a parent is that you get to make the decisions. You weighed the information available to you then decided that for your child, belly sleeping worked best. That’s your right as a parent.”

and I couldn’t agree more.

It gets confusing when you have the Dr. Sears site say something like “Remember that this is only a statistical correlation. It does not mean that if your baby sleeps on her tummy she’s going to die of SIDS. Current SIDS rates are around one in a thousand babies; meaning that there’s a 99.9 percent chance your child will remain a healthy little girl regardless of her sleep position.”

Add to this, the study at Arizona State University last Fall stating that “…researchers found that the number of babies who have developed flat-headedness has dramatically increased since 1992. The increase coincides with the American Academy of Pediatrics launch of a ‘Back to Sleep’ educational campaign that recommended parents place their infants on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.”

These two things almost make you feel a little more comfortable with tummy sleeping. I guess that’s typical, something comes out as good for you, then bad for you, and then good for you again.

For ME, it was the chance of regret that made me persevere in helping my son sleep on his back (or rather on his side, actually) even though there was a possibility he might sleep better on his tummy. We struggled SO much with sleep, but even if it was a rare occurrence, IF something happened to my son I would forever wonder whether it was the tummy sleeping. Forever, I might blame myself for ignoring the AAP’s recommendation. It was just too big of a risk and too heavy of a burden that I might have that I personally chose that tummy sleeping was NOT an option to solve my baby’s sleep problems. I saw the “back to sleep” issue as a temporary one, until he learned to roll over on his own.

In our case, it was 100% true. My son HATED to play on his tummy. He HATED tummy time. But, one day, he did flip onto his tummy and he did start to get used to tummy time and lo and behold, he flipped to his tummy to sleep and he slept sooo much better! Once he started rolling onto his tummy to sleep, I didn’t bother rolling him back. Even though he slept so much better, just like my mom said he would, I still don’t regret my decision one bit (and it’s not because I don’t want to admit my mom was right! :D).

There are always so many what if’s and if you have heard of The Butterfly Effect, you know that any small change in my son’s history might give me a different boy than I have today (or maybe I wouldn’t have my boy :(). Today, I have a son who is reading at the age of 4, counts to 100 (by 1’s, 10’s and working on 5’s), and knows that if he has 5 tens, he has 50, and all the other numbers to 100. He is doing so well, and though he is still that persistent child who is difficult to parent some days, he’s doing so awesome that I wouldn’t go back and change many things in our past. I do wish that I knew more back then that I know now, but it warms my heart so much to share it with all of you and, hopefully, save you the tears that both my son and I shed way back when.

I pass no judgment on parents who make different decisions than I did. I’m a worry wart and follow rules to the letter, sometimes. And, then there are times you need to make your own rules. We all need to make the rules that make sense for our family. You know your baby and your situation best and many times, your instincts will take you further than you think. However, it would be irresponsible of me not to stress the importance of putting your baby on his back to sleep. SIDS rates have dramatically decreased with the “Back to Sleep” campaign. So, please do take your time to review the AAP’s guide to safe sleep, so you can make your own informed choice.

How does/did your baby sleep on his back?

Baby Tummy Sleeping

I received a question this week and it came at the perfect time. And, it was a good question. The gist of the question is whether it’s OK to put a 9-month old on his tummy to sleep.

First, Back to Sleep

It is highly recommended to place your baby on his back to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you haven’t already, please review the ten ways to reduce SIDS risk, one of which is to make sure baby sleeps on his back to sleep. Some parents are worried baby will choke on spit-up, but babies will automatically swallow fluids or turn to the side. The #1 way to reduce the risk of SIDS is to put baby “back to sleep”.

When can baby sleep on his tummy?

So, when can we put our babies on their tummy to sleep? Please note you should check with your pediatrician, first and foremost. I am not a doctor, but it is my understanding that once your baby can roll onto her tummy, it is OK to allow her to sleep that way and you do not need to worry about continuously flipping her back over. Dr. Sears’ website states “It does not mean that if your baby sleeps on her tummy she’s going to die of SIDS. Current SIDS rates are around one in a thousand babies; meaning that there’s a 99.9 percent chance your child will remain a healthy little girl regardless of her sleep position.” HOWEVER, the AAP recommends that you place baby on her back each time you lay her down for the first year, even if she changes position later.

Some babies start to roll and don’t like it and wake you up numerous times per night. That is never fun. I was lucky that once my son learned to roll that way, he actually slept better! If your baby is rolling uncontrollably and doesn’t like it, this is usually a “short” (not when you’re going through it) 2-3 week phase and she will likely stop.

But, what about older babies?

Even though SIDS can happen anytime in the first year, the peak risk for SIDS is between 2 and 4 months old and 95% of all cases have occurred before 6 months, so that is probably less of a concern in a baby as old as 9 months old (the question at hand I mentioned at the beginning of this post). Many babies are rolling by 9 months old and likely would roll in their sleep, too.

Should you “force” tummy sleeping to get better sleep?

While encouraging your baby to sleep on his tummy when he hasn’t done it himself can work, it may be difficult to implement and not what the AAP recommends. It is best to develop a plan that you can 100% commit to and the #1 question to ask yourself when you consider a plan such as this, is whether you can stand at the crib and rub/pat his back for 2 hours. Of course, most babies probably will not take that long, but in most cases, if you had to visit this site, you do not have an “easy” sleeper and thus, certain methods may take a little longer than with other babies (especially in this case if he isn’t used to sleeping on his tummy). While some may drift off to sleep in 5-10 minutes, yours might take 30, 60 or 90 minutes. The #1 key is to be consistent with your plan, so make sure whatever you choose to do, you feel 100% committed you can stick with it for as long as it takes and then hope he doesn’t take that long. 😉 Of course, you will never know unless you try, either.

However, as with any method, you should be very careful not to create yet another sleep association that you will need to break. Don’t break one sleep association in exchange for another. That’s very important!

When did your baby start to sleep on his tummy?