Why Your Baby Shouldn’t Sleep on Her Stomach

For a baby in her first year of life, back-sleeping is the recommended safe sleeping position. Sleeping on the stomach is an unsafe sleeping position because it can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Find out more about sleeping positions for your baby, when babies can sleep safely on their stomachs, and how you can ensure a safe sleep environment for your baby.

When Can Babies Sleep on Their Stomachs?

All babies should be put to sleep on their backs for every sleep, including naps, during their first year of life. After your baby turns 1 you can let her sleep in any position she prefers, though you should continue to place her in the crib on her back. The back-sleeping position — along with other important precautions, such as keeping the crib free of loose bedding and toys — helps reduce the risk of SIDS.

Is It Safe for Your Baby to Sleep on His Stomach?

It isn’t safe to put babies to sleep on their stomachs. That’s because this position increases the risk of SIDS. The same goes for placing your baby to sleep on his side. From the side-sleeping position, your little one can easily roll onto his stomach and end up in this unsafe sleeping position. It’s important to reposition your baby onto her back if you see her change to a side or stomach position. However, some older babies are able to roll themselves back onto their backs after rolling onto their sides or stomachs. If you’re older baby is comfortable rolling in both directions (back to stomach and stomach to back), then you do not have to reposition her. Always make sure that there is nothing in the crib besides your baby. Some researchers believe that sleeping on the stomach face down can block airways and impair a baby’s breathing. Stomach sleeping may also increase the chance of your baby “rebreathing” the air he already expelled. The chance of this increases if your baby’s crib contains a soft mattress, bedding, stuffed animals, or a pillow near his face. Rebreathing expelled air causes a decline in oxygen levels and an increase in carbon dioxide. Until your baby reaches her first birthday, always place your baby in her crib on her back. Make sure the crib has a firm crib mattress that’s covered with a tight-fitting sheet. The crib shouldn’t contain any loose bedding, bumper pads, blankets, quilts, pillows, or stuffed animals. It should be completely empty.

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What if Your Baby Rolls Onto Her Stomach During Sleep?

If you notice your baby has rolled onto her stomach or side during sleep, gently return her to her back. If your baby is older and he is able to roll over both ways by himself, you don't have to return him to his back. However, when you put your baby down for nighttime sleep or a nap, always place your baby on his back.

At What Age Can Your Baby Sleep on His Stomach?

After your baby turns 1, you should still place your baby in her crib on her back. During sleep she can roll over into any sleeping position she prefers, including sleeping on her stomach. It’s OK for your baby to be on his stomach when he's awake in the daytime during a head-and-neck-strengthening practice called tummy time. Be sure tummy time sessions are supervised at all times by you or another adult.

What Should You Do if Your Baby Prefers Sleeping on Her Stomach?

Some babies may prefer to sleep on their stomachs. Even so, you should always place your baby in his crib on his back. If during sleep your baby ends up rolling onto her stomach or side, return her to her back. Continue to do this until your baby is older and can confidently roll both ways (back to side or stomach, side or stomach to back).

The Bottom Line

The best and safest sleeping position for your baby during the first year of life is on the back. Sleeping on the stomach can increase the risk of SIDS. This is it’s important to always place him on his back for every sleep. If your newborn or young baby does roll onto her side or stomach during sleep, return her to the back position. Continue doing this until your older baby is able to comfortably roll both ways on her own.

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How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.