When Can Baby Sleep On Stomach

When Can Baby Sleep On Stomach

As parents, one of the most important decisions we make for our babies is ensuring they get enough sleep to help them grow and thrive. However, one question that often arises is when can a baby sleep on their stomach. While stomach sleeping may seem like a comfortable position for your little one, it can pose serious risks that every parent needs to know about. However, what should you do if your baby turns over onto her stomach while sleeping at night? Is it safe for your baby to sleep in that position? Discover when it’s acceptable for your baby to sleep on her tummy and what steps to take if she rolls over during the night.

When Is It Safe For a Baby to Sleep on Their Stomach?

Once a baby has reached the age of one, it can sleep on its stomach. However, until they are 12 months old, it is necessary to always place the baby on their back for every sleep, nap, or night. But if the baby turns onto their stomach on their own, it is okay to leave them in that position.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Murray, DO, a pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, NY, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, experts agree that it is safe for a baby to sleep on their stomachs as long as they are able to do so on their own. “When they are old enough to freely roll forward and back. They may choose to sleep on their stomach and that is OK.”

As per Joan Becker Friedman, RN, a certified child sleep consultant at Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Pea Pod Sleep Consultants. There is no specific age or month when an infant is considered ready to sleep on their stomach. “It’s a matter of reaching developmental milestones.”

Benefits of Your Baby Sleep on Their Stomach 

It’s understandable why numerous infants appear to favor sleeping on their stomachs. Instinctively, they might be onto something.

It’s More Comfortable

If your baby has started sleeping on their stomach. There is likely one major advantage to this new position: they enjoy it! According to Becker Freidman, it’s common for babies to roll onto their stomachs while sleeping. As it can be more comfortable for them than sleeping on their backs.

However, if your baby still seems uncomfortable sleeping on their back, it’s not safe to flip them over or use an infant positioner or nest. These have been linked to infant deaths, warns Becker Freidman. Instead, limiting the amount of carrying or wearing your baby during naps can help them adjust to sleeping on their back.

Potentially Longer Sleep Cycles

According to Becker Friedman, babies who sleep on their stomachs tend to sleep for longer periods. Studies have indicated that premature babies, in particular, experience longer durations of high-quality sleep when placed in a prone position.

The Risks of Stomach Sleeping

Putting your baby to sleep on their stomach too early not only goes against widely recommended practices but can also result in severe consequences.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Although there is no direct proof that stomach sleeping causes SIDS, it is considered a risk factor during the first six months of a baby’s life when they are most susceptible. The American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome strongly recommends against stomach sleeping due to the high correlation between stomach sleeping and SIDS. In fact, countries that have implemented campaigns promoting back sleeping for infants have experienced a significant reduction in SIDS cases, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Engaging your baby in up to 30 minutes of tummy time each day can aid in developing the necessary neck, shoulder, arm, and back muscles for them to roll independently from front to back and vice versa. According to Becker Freidman, this is important because if a baby’s face is down on the mattress, it will be able to turn to the side, move, and breathe without any difficulty.


According to Dr. Murray, if a baby lacks sufficient head control and rolls onto their stomach, they may block their airways, which can lead to suffocation. This is why pediatricians advise against stomach sleeping or propping a baby up on their side, as it could increase the risk of accidental rolling. Therefore, it’s crucial to remove a baby’s arms from their swaddle or switch them to a sleep sack that doesn’t restrict their upper body, after 12 weeks of age or earlier if they begin to exhibit signs of rolling.

Becker Freidman explains that if a baby continues to be swaddled past the point of rolling, they could end up with their face and nose pressed against the mattress, unable to move to a free-breathing position. This same risk applies to weighted sleepsuits, which pose similar risks to babies who roll.


According to Becker Freidman, when infants sleep on their stomachs, they may try to breathe in the air that gets trapped in the bedding, leading to a buildup of carbon dioxide and reduced oxygen levels. While most babies will wake up and breathe in the fresh air, making them okay, some infants may take longer to respond or may not be able to roll over, causing them to lose consciousness. This is one reason why rebreathing is believed to be a contributing factor to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).


Studies indicate that stomach sleeping can impede the release of heat and hinder the regulation of body temperature, especially among low-birthweight infants. This may increase the likelihood of overheating, which is another known risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

To minimize the risk of overheating, it’s advisable to dress your baby in a lightweight wearable blanket, keep their head and face uncovered, and monitor signs that your baby might be feeling too warm. If you notice that your baby is sweating or feels hot to the touch on their chest, consider removing a layer of clothing or adjusting the thermostat accordingly.

Upper Airway Obstruction

Some parents may believe that infants who sleep on their stomachs are less likely to aspirate or accidentally inhale fluid into their lungs if they spit up during sleep. However, this is a misconception. According to Becker Freidman, “Due to the position of the trachea and esophagus, infants who sleep on their backs are less likely to aspirate if they spit up.”

What should you do if your baby prefers sleeping on her stomach?

While some babies may seem less fussy on their stomachs, it’s crucial to prioritize safe sleeping practices by putting your baby to sleep on their back. This will help your baby get used to the recommended position and reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

If your baby startles frequently during sleep, you may want to try swaddling your baby or using a sleep sack for added comfort. However, it’s important to note that swaddling should be stopped once your baby begins to kick off the blanket or attempts to roll over.

Another option to consider is offering your baby a pacifier when you put them down to sleep. This can provide the comfort they may be seeking and help them sleep more soundly. Remember to always follow safe sleeping guidelines to ensure the well-being of your little one.

How to Encourage Safe Sleeping

Encouraging safe sleeping is crucial for parents and caregivers of infants and young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep on their backs, on a firm and flat sleep surface, and without any soft bedding or toys in the crib. This is because safe sleeping practices can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related infant deaths. In this article, we will provide some tips and guidelines for encouraging safe sleeping.

1. Use a firm and flat sleep surface

The sleep surface should be firm and flat to reduce the risk of suffocation and SIDS. A crib, bassinet, or play yard with a firm mattress and a fitted sheet is the best option. Avoid using soft surfaces like adult beds, couches, or chairs for infants to sleep on.

2. Keep soft bedding and toys out of the crib

Soft bedding and toys in the crib can increase the risk of suffocation and SIDS. Avoid using pillows, blankets, bumper pads, or stuffed animals in the crib. Instead, dress the baby in a sleeper or other warm clothing for sleep.

3. Avoid overheating

Overheating can increase the risk of SIDS. Dress the baby appropriately for the room temperature and avoid using too many layers or blankets. The room should be kept at a comfortable temperature, around 68-72°F (20-22.2°C).

4. Place the baby on their back to sleep

Placing the baby on their back to sleep is the safest position for reducing the risk of SIDS. This position should be used for every sleep time, including naps and nighttime sleep. Once the baby is able to roll over on their own. They can be allowed to sleep in the position they choose.

5. Breastfeed if possible

Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50%. If possible, breastfeeding should be encouraged and supported for at least the first six months of life.

6. Use a pacifier when putting your baby down to sleep

Using a pacifier when putting your baby down to sleep can also reduce the risk of SIDS. However, it is important to note that pacifiers should not be forced, and should never be attached to a string or cord.

7. Consider room-sharing

The AAP recommends that infants sleep in the same room as their parents for at least the first six months of life, and ideally, for the first year. Room-sharing has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.

When to call the doctor

If your baby prefers to sleep on their stomach and has started rolling over on their own. There’s no need to worry as long as you’ve followed safe sleep practices at bedtime. However, if you have any concerns about your baby’s sleeping habits or are struggling to get them to sleep on their back. It’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor.

It’s understandable to feel anxious when your little one starts rolling onto their tummy during the night. However, as long as you consistently put your baby to sleep on their back and follow other safe sleep guidelines. You are taking the necessary steps to minimize the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).


If your little one is able to roll onto their stomach by themselves after being put to sleep on their back in a safe environment, and they have consistently shown the ability to roll both ways, then stomach sleeping can be considered safe.

However, before your baby reaches this milestone. It is important to remember that research has shown that they should sleep on their back. This can be difficult in the middle of the night when both you and your baby are in need of some much-needed rest.

Despite the challenges, it is essential to prioritize safe sleeping practices. The benefits of back sleeping significantly outweigh any potential risks, and before you know it, your baby will have moved past the newborn phase and will be able to choose a sleeping position that promotes more restful nights for both you and your little one.


Is it OK for the baby to sleep on my tummy?

Placing an infant on their stomach while sleeping may raise the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Therefore, it is crucial to always position your baby on their back during sleep, even for daytime naps.

At what age babies can sleep on their stomachs?

The recommendation is to always place your infant on their back to sleep during the first 12 months, as sleeping on their stomach is not recommended until they reach one year of age.

Why do NICU babies sleep on their stomachs?

It is simpler for infants to breathe while lying on their stomachs. This fact holds significance as numerous babies in the neonatal intensive care unit require assistance in breathing and may necessitate the use of diverse medical equipment for aid.

What is the benefit of tummy time?

Tummy time holds significance as it aids in preventing flat areas from developing on the back of your baby’s head. It also strengthens the neck and shoulder muscles, which eventually helps the baby to sit up, crawl, and walk. Moreover, it enhances your baby’s motor skills by utilizing muscles to carry out movements and actions.

What is the safest way for a newborn to sleep?

Always make sure to put your baby to sleep on their back until they reach one year of age. Because it’s the safest position for them. It’s not advisable to let your baby sleep on their side or tummy as it may pose a risk to their safety. However, if your baby has learned to roll from their back to side or tummy and back again, it’s acceptable if they change positions while sleeping.

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