Baby Sleeping on Stomach? Here's When It's Safe

If you have struggled to get your baby to sleep, you are not alone. There are plenty of people giving out advice, especially when it comes to stomach sleeping for babies. While turning a baby on their tummy might not seem like a bad idea, it has been associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). With that in mind, you want to know when it is safe to let your little one snooze on their stomach. Here is everything you need to know about letting your baby sleep on their tummy. 

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Official Sleep Recommendations

When you have a question, you need to go right to the source. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed a policy statement offering recommendations to reduce SIDS risk. They recommended that you place the baby:

  • On their back
  • On a flat and firm surface
  • In a shared room, but not a shared bed
  • In a bassinet or crib without any additional pillows, blankets, bedding, or toys

You should follow these recommendations for any type of sleep, including overnight and naps. Along with that, the AAP recommends that people use a crib without bumper pads. 

Related: Where Should My Newborn Baby Sleep? 

How Long Do You Need To Follow These Recommendations?

For the most part, you should adhere to the AAP guidelines until your baby is one year old. After that, the risk for SIDS does dramatically drop. You can add a light blanket to the crib too. 

Many in the medical industry recommend that you continue to put your baby on their backs as long as they are in a crib. If you are an experienced parent, you know they will not stay in the position. In many cases, they will move themselves to their stomachs, even before they are one year old - and that is okay.

belly sleeping is not recommended for infants

Why Keep Your Baby on Their Back?

When you place your baby in the crib, you will want to take away any "extras" in the space, such as blankets, pillows, and other soft items. SIDS has always been a concern, and the peak age for it is around two and four months of age

Since the early 1990s, deaths from SIDS have decreased, thanks in part to the AAP recommendations. Belly sleeping is thought to be a factor in those SIDS cases. A few studies have suggested that the upper airways can be obstructed when the baby breathes in their exhaled air. As a result, carbon dioxide will build-up, and the baby's oxygen levels can drop. Breathing in that exhaled air can also make it difficult for the baby's body heat to escape, causing overheating. 

When babies sleep on their bellies, they will have more extended periods of deep sleep. While that might sound great for sleep-deprived parents, belly sleeping can cause a sudden decrease in heart rate and blood pressure

There is a myth that if the baby sleeps on their back, they are more likely to vomit. That has been disproven by many studies, and there are even health benefits to back sleeping, such as lowering the risk for fever, stuffy noses, and ear infections. Some parents are concerned about flat spots on the head or muscular development, but you can combat that by placing your baby on the tummy for a few minutes per day.

Related: Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep? 

It can be hard to keep your baby on their backs. By the age of six months, most babies have the ability to roll on their stomachs. If you notice your baby sleeping in this position, you can let your little one continue to sleep. Once they can move on their bellies, the peak of SIDS has passed. Keep in mind that your baby should be rolling over from back to tummy and back without any help. Once they can do that, you can leave them in that preferred sleeping position.

ensure a good night's sleep for your baby

Talk With Your Pediatrician

If you are still concerned about stomach sleeping, it might be time to talk to your medical providers. All babies are different, and you want to get the right advice for your little one. Your doctor is there to answer your question. With a visit, they can provide you with tips, tricks, and tools to get a restful night's sleep for your baby. 

In many cases, babies can get fussy if oy place them on their backs. Getting your infant to sleep can be a challenging and frustrating experience. However, there are many ways to get your baby to sleep. If you want to ensure safe sleep, make sure to:

  • use a pacifier
  • breastfeed your baby
  • ensure baby does not overheated
  • keep baby in your room (but not in your bed) for the first year of life

Over the years, parents placed sleep positioners, bumpers, and wedges in a crib, but keeping those items away from the baby is recommended. Those items can keep the baby's head and body in one position, but it is not considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

Related: Precautions To Prevent Your Baby From Overheating

The Bottom Line

Stomach sleep is fine if your baby has rolled over in that position. You need to provide them with a safe environment and ensure that your little one can roll both ways before leaving them. If your baby cannot move on their stomachs, place them on their backs. 

Yes, putting a baby to sleep can be challenging, and the stomach might be their preferred position, but those risks outweigh the benefits. This phase will eventually pass, and your little one will be able to roll and sleep on their stomachs, leading to a much more restful night for you and your baby. 

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