Can babies sleep on their stomach? Read on to find out about the best sleep positions for babies.
Babies and sleep… one of the great conundrums of early parenthood, right?
For many, this is probably one of the most exasperating parts of motherhood – how to get babies to sleep? How much do they sleep? What are the best conditions for sleep?
And one of the most common questions related to baby sleep is: can babies sleep on their stomachs?
If you’re confused about the best sleep positions for babies, you’re in the right place. Read on.
In this article: 📝
- Is it okay for baby to sleep on their stomach?
- Why shouldn’t babies sleep on their stomach?
- What if your baby rolls onto their stomach while sleeping?
- What age can babies sleep on their stomach?
- Baby stomach-sleeping: the bottom line
Is it okay for baby to sleep on their stomach?
This is one topic where generational advice divides the room.
While your mother or grandmother might advise you to put your baby to sleep on their stomach, research today recommends that back sleeping is best.
The reason for this is that babies sleeping on their stomachs has been linked with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (aka SIDS – more about this in a minute).
One of the reasons our grandmothers put babies to sleep on their stomachs was a fear that a baby on its back would spit up and then not be able to breathe.
Luckily, this has been proven false.
Some parents also worry about back sleeping causing a flat spot on the back of the head as well as poor muscle development, but tummy time – even a few minutes a day – is enough to prevent both these issues.
Why shouldn’t babies sleep on their stomach?
Studies show that belly sleeping — putting a baby to sleep on their stomach — is a significant risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
SIDS is the sudden, unpredictable death of a child younger than 1 year of age that doesn’t have an explanation or known cause even after investigation.
Nine out of 10 of SIDS deaths take place within the first 6 months of life, most commonly when the baby is asleep.
Although the cause of SIDS is unknown, research suggests that it’s associated with the baby “rebreathing” the air they’ve breathed out, which is more likely if a baby is sleeping on their stomach with their nose toward the mattress.
In older children and adults, too much rebreathing would trigger the brain to wake up, but small babies aren’t able to rouse themselves so reliably.
There are other factors that help with safe sleeping.
Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Safe Sleeping page for some good tips.
What if your baby rolls onto their stomach while sleeping?
If you see that your baby has rolled onto their stomach in their sleep, gently put them back onto their back.
We know, it’s a pain. It’s not necessary to stay up all night watching them – the idea is just to roll them back as often as you are able.
What age can babies sleep on their stomach?
So, when can babies sleep on their stomach?
When your baby is a pro at rolling front to back and back to front (usually around 6 months), then it’s okay to not return them to their backs if they roll over in their sleep.
But it’s still a good idea to put your baby down for nighttime sleep and naps on their back.
The experts advise that babies should sleep on their back until the age of 1.
This is when the risk of SIDS drops off.
After your baby turns 1, it’s still best to put them down to sleep on their back.
After that, they can move themselves into whatever position they prefer.
Baby stomach-sleeping: the bottom line
The safest sleeping position for your baby is on its back.
In spite of what previous generations might advise, current research suggests it’s not a good idea to put babies to sleep on their stomach.
And yes, it might be tricky at times.
But don’t worry, mama. You’ve got this.
😴 More on baby sleep from The 411:
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Baby Sleep Training 101
All About the Baby Sleep Cycle
5 Things I Wish I Knew About Baby Sleep as a First-Time Mama
How Safe Is Co-Sleeping?
Can Newborns Sleep on Their Side?