baby sleep on stomach

Is it ever safe for baby to sleep on her tummy?

Back to sleep or back is best or back to sleep for all sleep.

As a parent of a newborn you have heard these phrases many times. This is because the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies up to the age of 1 always be placed on their backs to sleep. This is recommended because their research has found that laying babies on their backs can help decrease the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

But, recently after you lay your little one down to sleep on her back, you sometimes find her on her tummy. So, what do you do? Is it time to panic, run in and roll her back? Or is it ever ok for baby to sleep on her tummy?

Good news, it is likely not time to panic! Even if your baby is not 1 year old yet.

Your baby is learning more and more every day about her body, her surroundings and her world. This includes learning what she feels is the most comfortable sleep position.  Once your baby can easily and voluntarily roll from back to tummy AND from tummy back onto her back, she gets to be in charge of if she sleeps on her tummy or back.

Up until your baby is 12 months or older, it is recommended that you ALWAYS lay your baby down for naps and bedtime on their back. So even if she always wakes up on her tummy or she rolls over onto her tummy the moment you lay her down, you should continue laying her down on her back. Every single time.

What should you do?

Make sure you are following the other rules of safe sleep in addition to ensuring your baby has mastered the skill of rolling both ways. This will help to ensure that she is safe when she rolls herself onto her tummy.  This includes:

  • Baby’s own firm, flat sleep space
  • No soft bedding or objects, such as bumpers, loose blankets, pillows or stuffed animals in crib with baby
  • Dress baby appropriately to avoid overheating using comfy sleepers and sleep sacks

SIDS is every parent’s worst nightmare. And rightfully so, most of us cannot imagine something that devasting. Ensuring a safe sleep environment is of utmost importance.

Some parents also run into situations where a baby rolls to her tummy and wakes up screaming. Most likely because she’s not a pro at rolling over yet and she can’t get back onto her back. In these situations because your baby cannot easily roll both ways, you should go to your baby quickly and roll her back onto her back.

Managing milestones like rolling

Developmental milestones like learning to roll over can cause blips like this in baby’s sleep habits. Help baby back onto her back and keep in mind you may have to help her out a few times because she may keep rolling onto her tummy and calling out for your help. Her body and brain want her to master this new skill, but her body and brain also want to go to sleep.

In order to help her master this new skill, provide ample amounts of supervised, fun tummy time during the day.  This will facilitate development and your baby’s comfort and ability to roll from back to tummy and tummy to back!

Part of helping your baby learn to sleep well and love sleep is letting them develop their own routine to make their journey to sleep, and this includes finding their favorite sleep position. Let baby be the boss about her favorite sleep position (once she can safely and easily get into that position from her back and back onto her back in her safe sleep space!)[i]

Cheers to healthy, happy sleep!


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