When Can Your Baby Sleep On Their Stomach? 4 Signs To Watch For
Practicing safe sleep is important when it comes to caring for your little one. As a parent, one thing you're probably wondering about is when your baby can sleep on their stomach.
To determine this, you’ll need to know the basics when it comes to safe sleep and the four signs to watch for when trying to decide if your baby is ready for this transition.
In this article, we’ll also address a few commonly asked questions when it comes to your baby sleeping on their stomach and address some myths related to this position.
Table Of Contents
- Safe Sleep Recommendations
- When Can Your Baby Sleep On Their Stomach?
- What To Do If Your Baby Rolls Onto Their Stomach
- Concerns About Back Sleeping
- What To Do If Your Baby Prefers Sleeping On Their Stomach
Safe Sleep Recommendations
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of stomach sleeping for your baby, you first have to know and understand the sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
(We’ll also give you the low-down on how long these recommendations should be followed.)
Provide A Firm Sleep Surface
According to the AAP, your baby should share a room with you for at least the first six months, but not sleep on the same surface as you. This means your baby needs their own crib or bassinet with a firm bottom.
Fortunately, our Crib Mattress meets all your baby’s sleep needs! Not only is it firm, but it’s also comfortable, breathable, washable, and recyclable. Our unique design makes it possible for your baby to breathe straight through our mattress should they roll over onto their stomach.
This is because our Wovenaire core is 90% air by volume. Creating this unique design, we were able to leave behind foam, latex, springs, and glue, which are popular toxins and allergens (and no good for your little one).
If you’re looking for something a bit smaller for your baby’s early months, our Bassinet & Bedside Sleeper is a great choice. Its mattress utilizes the same patented Wovenaire technology that our crib mattresses are known for. It’s breathable, eco-friendly, and completely washable!
And since you can take it apart easily, it’s perfect for travel. With the Bassinet & Bedside Sleeper, your baby can sleep in a safe place no matter where life takes you.
Avoid Inclined Sleep Spaces
Though inclined sleepers and rockers were popular for a few years, recent studies show that any surface inclined by more than 10 degrees is unsafe for babies. In fact, they've led to nearly 100 deaths.
Little ones are more likely to fall asleep with their chin resting on their chest when tilted. They simply don't have the neck strength to lift their heads back up. And, unfortunately, when their chin is on their chest, a baby's airway can get blocked.
That’s why not letting your infant fall asleep in their rocker, swing, or other inclined equipment is best. Instead, let them sleep safely on a flat, firm mattress.
Eliminate Any Extras In Their Crib
It’s important to place your baby down in their crib or bassinet without soft surfaces, such as cute blankets, stuffed animals, crib bumpers, or pillows. Your baby can bury their face in these items and struggle to breathe.
If you use these items for decor or picture purposes, remove them immediately afterward, and always supervise your baby during this time.
Also, loose bedding can also be hazardous to your little one. Always use a breathable, fitted sheet that fits snugly around the mattress, like our Organic Cotton Sheets. Ensure your sheets fit properly if you’re using a mini-crib or other non-standard product.
Place Baby On Their Back To Sleep
The AAP also recommends always placing your baby on their back when it's time for sleep. This is the safest position for your baby and can help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Dangers of Stomach Sleeping
SIDS is one of the main dangers associated with stomach sleeping for babies, but it's not the only one. Let's look at a few other adverse effects of stomach sleeping:
When your baby's face is pressed against a soft surface, it can cause them to rebreathe the same air repeatedly. This is dangerous because it deprives your baby of oxygen and increases carbon dioxide levels in their body.
When your baby sleeps on their stomach, they can overheat more easily. In this position, their breath is trapped against the mattress, which can cause the temperature to rise.
Increased Suffocation Risk
Where does your face go when you sleep on your stomach? Right into the bed. This can be extremely dangerous for babies because their airways aren't as developed as older children’s. They also lack the muscle tone to turn their head and escape the mattress.
When your baby has their face pressed into their sleep surface, especially one that isn't breathable, their chances of suffocation increase.
Harder To Wake Up
Stomach sleeping can cause your baby to sleep more deeply. Walking them up for dream feeds or diaper changes is easier when they're on their back.
Your baby’s spine can become misaligned when they sleep on their side or stomach. This could cause chronic back or shoulder pain later in life.
When Can Your Baby Sleep On Their Stomach?
Your baby should not sleep on their stomach until they’re one year old. As mentioned above, they should always be placed on their back to sleep during the first 12 months to ensure a safe sleeping position.
However, it’s OK if they roll onto their stomach around four to six months old, as they should then be able to roll back over on their own.
Your baby will let you know when they’re ready, so here are some signs to watch for that are sure giveaways that your little one is prepared to sleep on their stomach.
1) Good Head Control
Before your baby can safely sleep on their stomach, they need to be able to hold their head up…and not just for a few minutes. Good head control means they’re holding their head up consistently.
This is important so your baby’s airway doesn’t get restricted. If your baby is on their stomach, it poses a suffocation risk since they can’t move their head to open up their airway.
Once they have good head control, however, your little one can move their head in a way that’s safe for them to breathe. (This is also why it’s so important to have a breathable mattress starting from day one!)
2) Rolling Over Both Ways
Rolling from back to tummy and tummy to back is one milestone your baby needs to master before they can sleep on their stomach.
This milestone is important to master because if they’re in an uncomfortable position where they could have trouble breathing, your baby is able to move themselves into a safe position.
One way to help your baby achieve this goal is by giving them plenty of tummy time during the day. This strengthens lots of muscles — like their neck and back muscles — that are important as they continue to grow.
Your baby is getting stronger by the day. Before you know it, they’ll be rolling over both ways! This is a good thing — just don’t leave your baby unattended, as once they start rolling, they won’t stop.
If you leave the room for one second, your baby could roll across the room!
3) No Longer Using A Swaddle
Swaddles are great for keeping newborns tight and cozy...kind of like the womb. Swaddle blankets and sleep sacks make it easy to wrap your little one and keep them warm at night without a traditional blanket.
However, even though most swaddles are breathable, you should stop swaddling your baby when they start rolling over. Their hands are placed tightly by their side in a swaddle, so if they were to roll over, there’s no way they’d be able to roll back. They need their arms to help.
Note: Your baby should never sleep on their tummy while they’re in a swaddle, no matter their age.
4) Rolling Onto Tummy In The Middle Of The Night
The last sign that your baby is ready to sleep on their stomach is when they’re already rolling onto their tummy while they’re sleeping! It means your little one has mastered the skill to sleep in this position.
Again, always place your baby on their back to sleep at least until their first birthday, but if your baby is already rolling to their stomach, there’s no need to turn them onto their back.
What To Do If Your Baby Rolls Onto Their Stomach
Many parents lose sleep during the early days of their baby’s life, and not just because they’re waking up to feed them every three to four hours.
It’s completely normal to feel the need to check on your baby’s breathing patterns and sleep position throughout the night. So what do you do if you see that they’re sleeping on their stomach?
As long as your little one is showing the four signs we mentioned above and is at least four to six months old, you can leave them in this position. (However, if you need to check in on them for your peace of mind, by all means, do so!)
If your baby is younger than four months old or they’re not showing all the signs mentioned above, you’ll need to place them on their back again if they roll.
This is also why it’s important to have a breathable mattress, like the Newton Baby Crib Mattress. Not only is it safe for your baby; it also provides you with peace of mind.
Concerns About Back Sleeping
Even though “back to sleep” is the only position doctors recommend, some parents still have concerns about it. Let’s look at a few myths regarding back sleeping.
Myth #1: Back Sleeping Causes Flat Head Syndrome
Some parents might be concerned about their child getting what's called a "flat head" from lying on their back too much.
The truth is flattening can occur with any position your baby spends a lot of time in, including lying on their stomach. To prevent this condition, it's important to move your baby into different positions while they're awake.
This is where tummy time comes into play. Your baby needs lots of it during the day, and tummy time helps round out your baby’s head if it does get a flat spot in the back.
Don’t let the possibility of a flat head stop you from placing your little one on their back to sleep! If you have concerns about your child’s head shape, bring it up with their doctor. They will have personalized recommendations you can follow.
Myth #2: Babies Sleep Better On Their Stomachs
While babies do tend to sleep more deeply when they’re on their stomachs, that is not good for newborns. They need to wake regularly for feedings and diaper changes. They’re more likely to sleep too long and wake up inconsolable and hungry when they're on their stomach.
However, once your baby is old enough to meet the milestones listed above, they’re less likely to need a night-time feed. At that point, it’s OK that they’re sleeping more deeply.
Myth #3: Stomach Sleeping Aids In Digestion
Your well-meaning mom or granny might tell you that it's best to put your baby on their stomach so they can digest their milk better and not wake up with a tummy ache.
However, there is no evidence that stomach sleeping helps children with digestion, and the risks associated with this sleep position are too high to try. Your baby can safely digest milk in any position, including on their back.
Myth #4: Snoring Babies Should Sleep On Their Stomach
Some babies, especially those with enlarged tonsils or adenoids, snore. If your child snores, it’s a sign that their airway is obstructed or that they have sleep apnea. This is something you need to bring up with their medical provider the next time you see them.
While adults who snore fare better if they sleep on their stomachs, that’s not the case with infants. Putting them on their stomach will increase their chances of having a blocked airway.
What To Do If Your Baby Prefers Sleeping On Their Stomach
Most babies don’t mind sleeping on their back and actually despise tummy time. However, if your baby cries when you lay them in this position for bedtime, talk with their doctor about your concerns.
Also, if your child cries when they’re on their back, remember that this rule is only in place for a short time. Once they can safely roll both ways and control their head, they can roll over onto their stomach and sleep that way. Until then, it’s worth a little fussing to keep them safe.
To help your little one stay comfortable while on their back, here are a few tips to try:
Check Mattress Comfort
Some mattresses, especially those super thin ones that come with most pack-and-plays or bassinets, aren’t fun to sleep on. If your baby has trouble sleeping in any position, it could be their mattress.
Your baby will love the breathable mattress that comes with our Travel Crib & Play Yard or Bassinet & Bedside Sleeper. And for their crib, you can use our Crib Mattress.
No matter which size you go with, your baby will rest comfortably!
Verify The Room’s Temperature
If your little one is too cold or too hot, they won’t be able to sleep well. To avoid this, monitor their room’s temperature and adjust as needed.
Practice At Nap Time
Babies need naps throughout the day. When it’s time for a nap, practice the same safe sleep habits that you do at bedtime. Being consistent with their sleep position every time you put them down helps them adjust more quickly.
But if you let them sleep on their stomach at nap time, when you’re around and watching them, you’ll only confuse your baby. So stick to their back all the time so they get used to it.
Try A Pacifier
Some babies are fussier than others. A pacifier can help soothe them when they’re feeling anxious. If your baby is a frequent night waker, try giving one to them before bedtime or when you notice them starting to stir. It can help them stay happily on their back.
If your baby isn’t yet rolling over, try swaddling them. Sometimes the more they flail their arms and legs, the more awake they become. A tight swaddle can help them settle down quickly and get to sleep.
Establish A Bedtime Routine
Your baby is still adjusting to life outside of the womb. To help them learn to relax and get ready for some shut-eye, try establishing a bedtime routine. It doesn't have to be complicated, but be consistent with it.
You can try bathing your baby, followed by snuggles with a story, and then sing a lullaby before you put them to bed. Doing the same thing night after night will help cue their body that it's time for sleep, not play.
Put your baby to bed when they’re drowsy but not yet asleep. And don’t wait until they’re over tired.
They might fuss or cry for a few minutes but should settle down shortly and drift off to dreamland. If they don’t, go check on them and offer some comforting words and touch to let them know they’re not alone.
Remember that all babies are different and some might take longer than others to get used to this. But with a little patience and consistency, your little one will eventually get the hang of sleeping on their back.
Back To Sleep
In summary, placing your baby on their back is best until they’ve developed the muscles and skills to move to each side. Protect your little one by always using safe sleep practices, like laying them on a firm mattress and keeping their sleep space clear.
Remember: Your baby shouldn’t sleep on their stomach until they’re at least one year old. And if your baby does end up rolling onto their tummy in the middle of the night, make sure they’ve met our four indicators of readiness (and are at least four to six months old).
If they’ve met these criteria, your baby can go ahead and sleep on their stomach — just place them on their back when you put them to bed.
To give your baby the safest sleep possible and give you peace of mind, follow these tips and use Newton Baby safe sleep products!