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 at The Baby Sleep Site®, so when it comes to determining 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 laying on his back. While many babies seem to prefer to sleep on their stomachs, 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 stomachs. 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 her breathing well, and to shift her position if she is not getting enough oxygen. In other words, a baby who can roll onto her stomach can no doubt sleep safely that way. It is recommended 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.

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16 thoughts on “Baby Sleeping On Stomach? Here’s What You Need To Know”

  1. Hi! My 2 month old baby really loves to sleep on his tummy all the time. I’m a bit worried if it will affect his growth development? Like rolling etc. And also, will it change eventually the way he sleep? Thanks

    • @Beverly – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. It’s so very common for babies to enjoy sleeping on their stomachs. “Back to sleep” is the recommendation so please, first, be sure to check in with your little guy’s healthcare provider to ensure his safe sleeping. Most times, the growth and development babies his age experience comes from the activity and sleep he gets all throughout the day vs just in the way he sleeps. And it definitely wouldn’t be uncommon for him to change his preferred sleeping position at some point either. Hang in there, Beverly!

  2. Hi Emily. That’s a new knowledge to me. I do agree that babies love to sleep on their stomach. I’ll try keeping my baby sleep on her back. By the way, I wonder if the crib is effect to baby’s health? Could you give me suggestion how to choose best crib for my baby? I’m learning about it and I visited here Thank you in advance for your kindness.

    • IssIe – go with your mama intuition – babies do love to sleep on their stomachs. They sleep more comfortably, can adjust their position as needed to expel burps or gas, and then settle back in for replenishing sleep : ) Their back, neck & arm muscles develop much quicker also – it’s what they were meant to do. When they sleep sounder, you sleep too and you are both happier when you awake. All this fussing to get them to sleep on their backs was created in the 1960s when new moms stopped listening to mamas and grammas in their families and were advised to seek knowledge of “experts”. Of course if you create more problems, new mamas will “need” more “consultants” and those consultants will make a lot of $$ “helping”. I’ve raised 5 children – followed my mommy intuition, while noticing examples of my mom and mom-in-law. All of my babies slept on their tummies and were happy babies and I was a happy mom! We are loving seeing our 5 now raise our 17 grandchildren – the tummy-slept grandchildren were happier and developed faster than the back-slept ones. Follow your mama intuition : )

  3. Hello all. So i just wanted to say that my first son prefered sleeping on his back maybe about 50% of the time how ever my newest baby seema to be more comfortable on his belly. This is more comfortable and helpful for him because hes having problems getting his gas out. He loves tummy time and is always able to relieve soooo much gas. I tried to feed burp and then give him a few mins on his belly one night and then see if i could get him to stay on his back when in his crib but he immediatly started fussing. He also spits up ALOT so i feel better knowing that any vomit or spit up will come straight out instead of worrying if he will choke on it. So my conclusion… it hasnt had any negative effects on either of my boys. They will be sleeping on their bellies and their dr will be informed. Good luck moms make the rite choice for you and your babies!

    • Hi @Erica – Thank you for writing and letting us know what works for you and your family!

    • I agree with Erica. All of my 5 children slept from day 1 on their tummies. I breastfed all of them, started feeding rice cereal around 3 weeks. They were happy babies and I was a happy mommy. They all have college degrees, are married and we are expecting our 18th grandchild in August. Don’t stress out over all of the information out there. Stay in tune with your baby and incorporate them into your lifestyle. Ask your grandmas how they did it. Enjoy the discovery and sweet times of being a mama : )

      • @Janet – congratulations on the 18th grandchild and thank you for you input to this discussion. 🙂

  4. No studies of sids and babies laying on their bellies ever has taken in vaccine injuries into account. Go back to when vaccines were at their lowest and every one had their babies laying on their bellies(the 80s and under), infant death rates were lower and much less sids. O and a whole generation doesnt have flat heads. So you can all claim correlation isnt causation but history tells us infant death rates want to be lowered less vaccines and babies laying on their bellies. Fact undeniable fact.

  5. The only reason they try and blame stomach sleeping to sids us because they dont want to blame the correct culprit vaccines. A baby is more liable to choke on vomit in early stages rather than suffocation. Common sense has been completely thrown out trying to hide the vaccine injuries. Shame on you doctors. Actually shame on your professors. Teaching the new generation of doctors to have no common sense.

    • Hi @Anthony – Thanks you for visiting us and taking a few minutes to write too! We thank you for sharing your opinion with us! We know that vaccines continue to be a big topic for discussion, and will continue to be so, as research continues. We do strongly recommend that any/all parents concerned about safe sleep positioning or vaccines, consult with their baby’s doctor for personalized and professional advice.
      Thanks again for visiting!

    • @Barnett, Thank you for your comment and for sharing the article! Your doctor knows baby best, so we always recommend checking with your pediatrician for the latest information and recommendations for your family!

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