When Can Babies Sleep on Their Stomach?

By ryan

Baby Sleeping On Back

As a new parent, you are constantly bombarded with a deluge of advice and information about your newborn. Simply scroll through your Facebook feed and you are sure to come across plenty of articles telling you what you are doing wrong!

One thing that may be causing you anxiety are questions around newborn sleeping positions. What is the correct sleeping position for your newborn? You’ve likely heard of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and the direct correlation between SIDS and baby sleep positions.

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A quick history of sleep positions

Why does your mom and grandmother think you should put your baby on his or her tummy during sleep? That’s because it wasn’t until about 1990 that parents were advised to change the baby sleep position to the supine position - the back.

In 1944, a pathologist from New York noticed that about 66% of infants who died from suffocation during night were placed face down. These findings were verified by other researchers in the United Kingdom and Australia. These findings launched a short-lived campaign against face-down sleeping positions.

This campaign didn’t last because In 1945 a pediatrician (Woolley) vocally rejected these findings through some faulty research of his own. He attributed the deaths to infection, choking on vomit and a hypersensitivity to inhaled milk. Ultimately, he didn’t want parents to feel a sense of guilt over their child’s death. While noble in his intentions, he ultimately set parents on the wrong path for the next 50 years.

Despite scientific evidence proving otherwise, face-down sleep positions were promoted up until 1992. The first text that advised against front sleeping positions wasn’t released until 1992.

So what? Well, your mom and grandma are absolutely wrong if they think you should put your baby on his or her stomach. The evidence is overwhelming that this increases the risk of SIDS.

So When is it Safe for Babies to Sleep on their Stomach?

There certainly comes a point where you can’t control your baby’s sleep position anymore. So, at what age is it safe to put your baby on his or her tummy?

The highest risk of SIDS happens between one and four months of age. It is absolutely crucial that during this stage, your baby sleeps in the supine (flat on back) position.

SIDS remains a risk until your baby is about one year old. Until then, you should always put your baby to sleep on his or her back. At some point, your baby will learn how to roll over. This usually occurs around 6 months. If your baby rolls from her back to her belly during the night, there is no need to worry.

A very important note about newborn sleep positions:

One of the things that drastically increases the risk of SIDS is suddenly putting an infant on his tummy when he is accustomed to sleeping on his back. Research has found that this sudden change can dramatically increase risk.

Why is this important? You need to be firm and clear with anybody else who watches your child. Tell your mom, dad, brothers, sisters, daycare workers, and babysitters that you always want your baby going to bed on your his or her back. Do not compromise as this is well-researched and clearly documented.

Is it ok for my baby to sleep on her side?

Like prone (stomach) sleeping, side sleeping is not recommended. Do not let your newborn sleep on her side. It’s very easy for her to roll over to her tummy.

Conclusion:

The best newborn sleeping position is the supine position which is on the back. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise! Also, don’t forget to give your baby plenty of tummy time during the day.

In Summary:

  • 1-5 months: always put baby on back
  • 5-12 months: put baby on back but don’t worry if baby rolls over in the night.
  • 12 months and older: Your baby is going to sleep however he or she wants to!

It’s simple. Never put your baby to sleep face down during the first year.

Do you want to discover all the ways that you can reduce SIDS? Sleep position is just one of the seven most important things to do. Learn the rest by getting your free SIDS prevention ebook.