Can Babies Sleep on Their Stomach?

Written by: Gabriela Alvarado



Time to read 9 min

As a new parent, you want your newborn to be as safe as possible, and keeping your baby safe starts by knowing the dos and don’ts when bedtime comes around.

Continue reading to learn what’s the best position for your baby to sleep in and other tips to keep them safe while they sleep.

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Is It Safe for Babies to Sleep on Their Stomach?

When it comes to ensuring the safety and well-being during your baby’s first year of life, the position in which they rest is greatly important. It’s widely recommended by pediatricians and child safety experts that babies sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

baby sleeping on their stomach

SIDS is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby before their first year of age. The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, but has been associated with defects in the portion of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.

Research shows that sleeping on the stomach or side can increase the risk of SIDS, as these positions can make breathing more difficult.

6 Dangers of Having Your Baby Sleep on Their Stomach

Although a baby’s risk of SIDS is the most common concern, it’s not the only danger associated with tummy sleeping. Some of these risks are:

1. Suffocation

Babies lack the muscle strength and coordination to move out of positions where their breathing may be compromised, especially before their first birthday. If a baby ends up with their face against a mattress, blanket or other soft surfaces, their airway can become blocked.

2. Rebreathing

Sleeping on their stomach can cause your little one to breathe in the air they’ve just breathed out, leading to an increase in their blood levels of carbon dioxide and a decrease in blood oxygen. This phenomenon can result in hypoxia, a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply.

3. Choking on Spit-up

Babies are more likely to choke on their spit-up if they’re lying on their stomachs. This happens because gravity is not helping them clear the fluid away from their airway, as it would if they were sleeping on their backs.

4. Overheating

Babies sleeping on their stomachs are at a higher risk of overheating, which is a known risk factor for SIDS death. This position can trap heat between the baby and the sleep surface, making it difficult for infants to regulate their body temperature.

5. Impaired Arousal

Babies sleeping on their stomach may have a harder time waking up. This can be dangerous if your baby needs to respond to a distressing stimulus when they’re asleep.

6. Restricted Movement

Sleeping on their stomach can limit a baby’s ability to move their head and neck to clear their breathing passages if they’re obstructed.

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When Can a Baby Sleep on Their Stomach?

Most babies develop the ability to roll over on their own when they are around four to six months of age. This milestone is a sign that your baby is growing and gaining muscle strength. Once your baby can roll over, it’s not necessary to reposition them if they end up on their tummy while sleeping.

However, it’s still crucial to put your baby down on their back when sleep or nap time comes around.

What Should I Do If My Baby Rolls onto Their Stomach While Sleeping ?

If your baby is younger than four months and you find they have rolled onto their stomach, gently turn them onto their back again.

What Can I Do if My Baby Will Only Fall Asleep on Their Stomach?

Some babies show preference for being stomach sleepers. However, for safety reasons, it’s best to encourage back sleeping. Here are some tips that can help you get your baby to sleep on their back:

Get a Good Mattress

Invest in a high-quality crib mattress that provides firmness and support, which are essential for your little one’s safety and comfort. A firm mattress can prevent sinking and help maintain a clear airway. At Nurture& , we have crib mattresses made with organic materials and a removable, machine-washable mattress cover.

Wrap Your Baby in a Swaddle

For newborns, a swaddle or sleep sack can mimic the snugness they felt in the womb. This can be comforting and may help them fall asleep on their back. Make sure you stop swaddling once your baby can roll over, as it could restrict their movement.

Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Establishing a calming bedtime routine can signal your baby that it’s time to sleep. This can include dimming the lights, playing soft music or white noise, and gentle rocking .

Make Sure They Spend Time on Their Back during the Day

Encourage your baby to spend awake time on their back. This can help them get accustomed to the position and may make back sleeping more comfortable.

Stay Close While They Sleep

Especially in the early months, keep your baby’s sleep area close to you. This can provide reassurance and allows you to monitor their sleep position.

baby with sheets

7 Tips to Create a Safe Sleep Environment

Following safe sleep recommendations is essential for your baby’s health and well-being. Besides having your infant sleep on their back, there are several other practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that can help make your baby’s sleeping space safer and more comfortable.

1. Comply with AAP Recommendations

The AAP advises that your baby should sleep on a firm surface, such as a mattress in a crib with side rails, covered with a fitted sheet. Soft objects like pillows, blankets, toys, stuffed animals and bumper pads should be kept out of your baby’s crib or bassinet to reduce SIDS risk.

2. Sleep on the Same Room as Your Baby

Room-sharing without sharing a bed is recommended for at least the first six months of life. This arrangement allows you to be close to your baby and monitor them. It also makes feeding and comforting easier, which can help both baby and caregivers sleep better.

3. Give Your Baby a Pacifier Before Sleep Time

Offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime can reduce the risk of SIDS. Your baby can use the pacifier when you're getting them back to sleep, but make sure you don’t reinsert it when they're already asleep. If you’re breastfeeding your baby, wait until they’re three to four weeks old before introducing a pacifier.

4. Avoid Exposing Your Baby to Smoke

Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS and can cause respiratory infections, ear infections, and asthma attacks in babies. Ensuring that your baby’s environment is smoke-free will significantly contribute to their overall health and safety.

5. Maintain a Comfortable Room Temperature

Dress your baby in light sleep clothing and keep the room at a temperature that would be comfortable for an adult wearing light clothing.

6. Keep the Crib Clear

The crib should be free of bumper pads, loose bedding, pillows, and soft toys. These items can increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation or strangulation. Nurture& Cribs are ideal for keeping your baby safe and comfortable while they sleep.

7. Breastfeed, if Possible

Breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of SIDS . The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced.

By following these tips and maintaining a vigilant eye, you can create a safe and comfortable environment for your little one. If you have any concerns about your baby’s sleep safety, please consult with your healthcare provider.

What Is the Best Baby Sleep Position?

According to the AAP, one of the most important safe sleep practices is to make sure that your baby sleeps on their back during their first year of life.

What if My Baby Gets a Flat Spot on Their Head?

Some babies may develop a flat spot on the back of their head from spending extended periods of time on their backs. However, these spots aren’t permanent and don’t lead to long-term problems. They typically resolve once the baby starts sitting up. To prevent these flat spots, consider the following:

  • Tummy timeAllow your baby to lay awake on their tummy for at least 30 minutes a day under your supervision. This helps strengthen their neck and shoulder muscles and prevents flat spots.

  • Hold upright: When holding your baby, keep them upright, supporting their head with your hand, rather than letting their head rest on your forearm.

  • Don’t leave them sitting for too long: Limit their time in car seats, carriers and bouncers where their head rests against a flat surface.

  • Switch sides: Alternate the direction your baby’s head faces when they sleep to distribute pressure evenly.

  • Use a variety of positions while they’re awake: Change your baby’s position throughout the day.

  • Monitor head shape and growth: Keep an eye on the shape of your baby’s head as they grow, especially during the first few months.

  • Encourage movement: As your baby grows, encourage them to move and explore, which naturally reduces the time spent on their back.

  • Consult with your pediatricianIf you notice a flat spot developing, talk to your pediatrician to make sure everything’s fine.

A baby sleeping


What Is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than one year of age, which remains unexplained even after a thorough investigation.

SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants from one month to one year old, and most SIDS deaths occur when the baby is between one and four months of age.

What Is SUID ?

Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) is a term used to describe any sudden and unexpected death of a baby less than one year old, in which the cause is not obvious before a proper investigation.

SUID includes several different causes of death, such as SIDS, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, and other deaths of unknown causes.

How Can I Reduce My Baby’s Risk of SIDS and SUID ?

The AAP recommends creating a safe space environment to reduce the risk of all sleep-related deaths. This includes placing the baby on their back to sleep, using a firm, non-inclined sleep surface, room sharing without bed sharing, and avoiding soft bedding and overheating.

Does Sleeping on the Stomach Prevent Choking?

No, sleeping on the stomach doesn’t prevent choking. In fact, the AAP advises that even babies with reflux should sleep on their backs. While it may seem counterintuitive, babies’ airway anatomy and reflexes reduce the risk of choking when they’re on their backs.

Was It Wrong If I Was Put to Sleep on My Stomach When I Was a Baby?

In the past, it was common to put babies to sleep on their stomachs. However, research has shown that this increases the risk of SIDS. Since 1994 the “Safe to Sleep” campaign has been recommending placing babies on their backs to sleep, which has made the rate of SIDS drop significantly.

Can Babies Sleep on Their Side?

The AAP doesn’t recommend side sleeping for babies as it isn't as safe as back sleeping and it can increase the risk of SIDS. Babies placed on their side may roll more easily onto their stomachs.

The safest sleep position for your baby is on their back, in a crib free of loose bedding, toys and other items. This minimizes the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related dangers. Always consult with your pediatrician for the best sleep practices for your baby.

At Nurture&, we want to help you keep your newborn safe and comfortable with the best quality products for your nursery. Check out Our Journal for more pregnancy and baby-related tips!

L. Elizabeth Forry

Medically reviewed: Gabriela Alvarado

Medical surgeon with certifications from Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University. Committed to medical excellence, she has conducted several academic research projects that have contributed to the advancement of the field.

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