Is It Safe for Baby to Sleep on Tummy?

My baby sleeps better on the tummy. In a desperate bid to get some sleep one night, I laid her down on her tummy and gave her a few pats. I had the best sleep that I had in a while.

At the same time, I was wracked with guilt and ended up seeking her crib as soon as I awakened. Almost every parent hears the SID’s talk before they leave the hospital. In a bid to get some sleep, did I kill my baby?

She was perfectly fine, but maybe I was lucky. Is it safe to put your baby on their stomach to sleep? What if the baby sleeps better on tummy?

Do babies sleep better on their tummy?

If you look on the internet, you will find many baby forums where parents ask if their baby can sleep on their tummy. Some even admit to letting their baby sleep this way.

In one poll conducted, 42 percent of the 24,000 people asked admitted to putting their babies to sleep on their stomachs. The parents stated that the babies sleep more soundly on their stomachs.

In another study, 77 percent of parents said that they usually put their babies asleep on their backs. Sometimes they went to sleep on their sides or tummy.

In this study, the people who said that they were going to put their babies to sleep on their tummy fell into several categories.

  • Minorities
  • Those with less than a high school education
  • People who were afraid their babies would spit up and choke
  • People whose parents put them to sleep on their tummies or suggested it for their grandbabies

Sometimes even professionals put babies on their tummies to sleep. A 2002 study, published in the Pediatrics journal, found that many intensive care infants slept on their tummy.

Sometimes it happens because of the number of tubes and other equipment on the baby. Parents see their baby on their tummy and assume that it is safe.

Is it safe?

The answer is no. Babies might be more comfortable on their tummies, but it still increases the risk of SIDs. In sudden infant death syndrome, infants die, and no one is sure the cause.

In 1994 the American Academy of Pediatrics started the Back to Sleep Campaign. The Campaign cut down the number of infants that died with SID’s from 120 deaths to 56 deaths per 100,000 live births.

One of the reasons babies sleeping on their backs might decrease the risk is that they wake up more easily placed on their backs. The infant can wake up if something starts to go wrong.

In 2017 1,400 deaths were contributed to SID’s. These might seem like a small amount, but the parents that it affected SID’s are still a problem. These parents would likely tell you that sleep is not worth risking your baby’s life over.

When can baby sleep on tummy?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting the infant to sleep on his back until the baby is one year of age. If the baby rolls over, do you need to flip the baby back over to its back? A baby six months of age should have well enough head and trunk control to lower the suffocation risk.

If the baby begins rolling early, around three months, the subject becomes debatable. Some say the baby should be placed back on its back.

Others say that the baby should have enough muscle control and maturity to shift positions if he doesn’t get enough air. SID’s peaks around two to three months of age, so they should be sleeping on their back during this age.

If you have any concerns about rather you should move a rolling baby back to its back, consult your pediatrician.

What steps then can I take to help baby sleep through the night?

Sleep with a fan

Babies sleep best when the temperature is between 69 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit. The circulation of air in the room might help them sleep better too. Just place the fan in a position where it is not directly hitting the baby. The air hitting the baby might startle him.

Avoid toys around the crib

A lot of toys around the crib might look cute, but it could confuse the baby. The crib needs to be a place free from extra stimulation.

If it is cluttered, the baby might think it is a place to play instead of sleep. It is also important not to place objects in the crib because they could become a suffocation hazard.


During the first few months, swaddling can help the baby sleep. Swaddling is wrapping the baby tightly in a blanket so they cannot move. Swaddling can make the baby feel safe and secure.

It is safe when done right. Around the age of 3 or 4 months, the baby wants to start moving when placed in the crib. At this point, swaddling might cause the baby to become fussier.

Use a pacifier

Giving your baby a pacifier at night helps soothe them. Babies with pacifiers stay asleep longer. The American Academy of Pediatricians also reports that it helps reduce SID’s. There are several theories as to why.

  • A pacifier might keep the baby from rolling over at night.
  • The pacifier blocks the baby’s face from getting to close to the mattress.
  • The pacifier might help develop better breathing muscles.

Keep lights dim

Light signals day time to the baby. Try to keep lights out during nap time and bedtime. If you need a light in the room, use a dim light with an orange or red glow.

Don’t be to quite

A white noise machine can help your baby fall asleep by covering up other noises around the house. The white noise reminds babies of the womb.

Keep the white noise machine far from the baby, and on the lowest setting. Another tip, don’t tiptoe around the baby. The baby needs to get used to noise being around.

If it’s quite all the time, and suddenly there is a noise, it is more likely to startle a baby. The baby needs to get familiar with the rhythm of the house.

Stick to a routine

If you follow a routine, it will help signal to the baby it’s time for sleep. If you bath the baby before bed, the baby will start getting ready for bed after the bath. A baby doesn’t know what time it is, but it can start picking up patterns in a routine.

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