Tips for When Your Baby Sleeps Face Down

Your baby may be more comfortable sleeping on their stomach, but you’ve heard so many things about stomach sleeping being unsafe that you may not be sure if you should let him or sleep face down. The truth is that sleeping face down has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which has led pediatric experts to advise against stomach sleeping until your baby reaches a certain age.

However, many parents struggle to get their baby to sleep on his or her back while others wonder when it’s safe to let their baby sleep on their stomach if they have no other options. There are instances where stomach sleeping is safe and sometimes it cannot be avoided.

In this article, you’ll learn when it’s safe for your baby to sleep face down as well as tips for teaching your baby to sleep on his or her back and ways to make stomach sleeping safer.

Is it Safe for My Baby to Sleep Face Down?

The answer to this question depends on several factors. In some instances, it is safe for your baby to sleep face down and in other instances, it is not safe for your baby to sleep face down. The factors you should consider before allowing your baby to on their stomach include:

Is Your Baby Old Enough to Sleep Face Down?

If your baby sleeps face down, but he or she is not able to flip themselves to this position it is not a good idea to let them sleep this way. Case studies have found that when compared to back sleeping, stomach sleeping is associated with significantly greater risks of SIDS.

Does Your Baby Have Experience Sleeping on Their Stomach?

The amount of time your baby spends on their stomach also affects how safe it is for him or her to sleep face down. Recent case studies have discovered the more often your baby sleeps face down, the less likely they are to suffer from SIDS. This is because experienced stomach sleepers have learned to move their heads when they can’t breathe well or when their oxygen quality is low.

Does Your Baby Roll Over?

Most professionals say it’s safe to let your baby sleep face down if they can roll over, but recent studies have found babies are at a greater risk of SIDS when they first begin sleeping on their stomachs. As a result, you should encourage your baby to sleep on their back and introduce them to tummy-time as a way to prepare them for sleeping on their stomachs.

How Well Will Your Baby Be Supervised During Stomach Time?

At some point, it will be almost completely safe for your baby to sleep face down unsupervised. However, if your baby sleeps face down and is under 12-months old, you should continue to encourage back sleeping. You can allow your baby to nap on their stomachs if you are watching them, but you must not leave infants on their stomachs unsupervised even for a second. Do not allow your baby to sleep on their stomachs if they are not being closely monitored.

5 Tips to Make Baby Sleep on Their Back

You may want to keep your baby on their back even when they’re old enough to roll over. This may be true if you’re particularly worried about SIDS or if your baby has a medical condition in which back sleeping is the best option for them.

If your baby sleeps face down, there are a few ways to keep them sleeping on their backs:

1. Swaddle for Baby for Comfort

Wrapping your baby snuggly in a blanket or swaddler not only prevents them from being able to roll over but often keeps them comfortable and sound asleep.

2. Use Infant Approved Wedges

If your baby sleeps face down, you can use a wedge to prevent them from rolling over. A wedge secures your baby on their back or side (a second option if back sleeping is impossible) by wedging them between two infant-approved cushions.

3. Gently Retrain Your Baby with a Thin Blanket

You can use a thin blanket, tucked tightly into the mattress and around your baby to secure them on their back. Make sure the blanket isn’t plushy and doesn’t come higher than your baby’s waist. A sheet is an even better option for this technique.

4. Elevate the Mattress from Underneath

There are wedges and elevators you can use under the mattress that elevate your baby and keep him or her on their back.

5. Train Your Baby to Be Comfortable on Their Back

This is one of the most important ways you can encourage your baby to sleep on their back. Your baby is comfortable with things that are familiar to him or her, and if your baby sleeps face down often, they will associate this position with comfort. You can encourage your baby to sleep on their back by rocking them to sleep on their back and placing them in their bed on their back.

Training Your Baby to Sleep Face Down

Although experts discourage stomach sleeping, recent studies show that training your baby to sleep on their stomach greatly reduces the risk of SIDS when they can rollover. It is believed when your baby sleeps face down he or she breathes poor oxygen quality because they’re breathing in the air they exhale and babies who regularly sleep on their stomachs have learned to move their heads for better air quality.

Several case studies have found that babies who are new to sleeping on their stomachs have not learned to move their heads to breathe air that has less carbon monoxide. Scientists also believe these babies are at greater risks because they have less experience lifting their heads.

As a result, there are few things you can do to make it safer when your baby sleeps face down, such as:

  • Giving your baby regular baby tummy-time while they are small. It teaches them to lift and move their heads, which strengthens their muscles. When your baby sleeps face down in the future, he or she will have the muscle strength to move their head to improve their breathing.
  • Allowing your baby to sleep on their stomach for short naps while they are being supervised. We suggest letting your baby sleep on their stomach when you and only you can watch them closely. If you need to step away, return your baby to their back and do not let other caregivers to allow your baby to sleep face down because they may not follow the criteria you have set in place for stomach sleeping.

You should also make sure the bed is safe if your baby sleeps face down on their own, which we discuss in the next section.

5 Ways to Make Sleeping Safer When Your Baby Sleeps Face Down

You’ve tried everything to keep your little one on his or back during naps and bedtime, but your baby sleeps face down despite all your efforts. If this is the case, you should take a few steps to make sleeping on their stomach safer.

1. Use a Firm Mattress

SIDS has been linked to mattresses that are too soft because your baby may sink their face into the material and may not be able to lift their head. Your best option is a firm mattress covered with a thin sheet.

2. Do Not Co-Sleep with Your Infant

It’s tempting to co-sleep, but it puts your baby at a much greater risk of SIDS whether they’re sleeping on their back or stomach. We sleep very hard the first few months of our baby’s life because we’re exhausted. It means we could roll over on our baby and not realize it or our baby could snuggle too close to use causing them to suffocate. You should wait until your baby is over 4-months old before you bed-share and older if you can wait longer.

3. Use Infant-Safe Bedding

Experts suggest you use only a mattress and sheet in your baby’s bed until they are about 12-months old. If you need to use a blanket to keep your baby on his or her back, it should be a thin blanket. You should also make sure any wedges you use are safe for your baby.

4. Do Not Put Unsafe Items in Your Baby’s Bed

Do not put anything plush or fluffy in your baby’s bed, including stuffed animals, pillows, toys, and even bumper pads. Your baby could suffocate on these objects especially if they cannot move their head to breath better.

5. Check on Your Baby

In the first few months, it’s a good idea to routinely check on your baby and his or her breathing. This reduces the risk of SIDS and allows you to monitor their progress when it comes to sleeping on their stomachs.

Conclusion

Sometimes it’s safe for your baby to sleep face down, but make sure they are old enough, have proper bedding, and can move their face to breath better. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to encourage your baby to sleep on his or her back while simultaneously training them to sleep on their stomach.