In the whirlwind of dos and don’ts when it comes to your baby, there are some situations that present grey areas that can be tough to navigate. One of those grey areas is often baby sleep. When it comes to the topic of whether or not a baby should sleep on their stomach or back, you are likely to find that it is a hot-button topic that brings with it sharp debate. In an effort to put an end to the confusion, we at Yellodoor would like to offer solutions as to often asked questions including whether or not back is really best for baby sleep and why your baby keeps sleeping face down.
Is It OK If My Baby Sleeps Face Down?
As you may know, most doctors will tell you that no, you may absolutely not allow your newborn to sleep face down. But at what age can babies sleep face down? This question really depends on your little one.
To be specific, as soon as your baby is able to roll over by him or herself, he or she should likely be okay to sleep on his or her stomach. Having said this, it doesn’t give you the green light to place your little one on their stomach, but rather, to not feel like you have to flip them over every time they end up in this position on their own.
You should feel free to place your child or their stomach or back by 12 months of age, because at this point, they will be well able to wiggle their way out of compromising positions if they need to.
Nevertheless, there are many parents who, despite the reassurance, would rather flip their child onto their backs anytime they see them roll over onto their stomach. Though not always necessary, it isn’t a bad habit, though doing so may rouse your baby and keep them from a deep sleep if you attempt this all the time.
Can I let my baby sleep on his stomach if I watch him
Some may ask, “Can I let my baby sleep on his stomach if I watch him?”
This is a good question, and we totally understand why it is being asked. It is no secret that many babies sleep better on their stomachs, and many well-meaning grandparents will actually recommend that you do so as a means to get your baby to snooze.
The problem is that by doing so, you risk your little one not being able to get the oxygen he or she needs throughout his or her sleep. Sometimes, due to positioning, your baby may actually end up breathing in the carbon dioxide they exhale, causing damaging effects, and even death in some instances.
But what if you are watching your baby? Is sleeping on his or her stomach okay, then?
We wouldn’t recommend it, but if you must, be sure to supervise them closely.
As you watch, be sure to check for proper breathing, and that nothing is covering his or her nose or mouth. Once your baby does wake up, be careful to pick him or her up slowly and carefully without any sudden flips, turns or jarring movements, as doing so may cause your baby to gag, choke or lose their breath. If this does happen, set your baby upright and give them a chance to recuperate. Use a nasal aspirator such as the one found in this baby grooming kit if it seems your child’s nose has become blocked with snot or mucus from laying in this position.
Still yet, some mums and dads are surprised to find that their little ones are literally sleeping face down… with their face buried in their mattress. When this happens, it is imperative that you flip the baby on their back, or at least gently turn their heads, especially if they aren’t able to flip themselves. Babies that are anywhere from one to five months of age must be monitored closely for this sort of activity.
If your child has reached the age of being able to roll over and is able to sleep soundly on their stomach, you may allow them to continue to do so, but must turn their head in the event that they bury their head in the mattress. Though many mums and dads have seen their babies do this, and some babies even seemingly prefer to sleep this way, it isn’t a safe practise, no matter how old your baby is.
All in all, if you have concerns about your child being safe during sleep, consider keeping your baby on his or her back until their 1st birthday using the varying methods mentioned later in this post.
Can Babies Sleep Face Down on Chest?
What parent or grandparent doesn’t love the feeling of a baby curled up on their chest while sweetly drifting to sleep?
Having your baby sleep on your chest not only feels great, but the skin-to-skin contact involved in doing so is great for your baby, as well. But is it okay for babies to stomach sleep when laying on their parents?
The question to this will depend on a variety of factors. If you plan to have your baby sleep on your chest, you must first make sure that you are awake and alert.
As tempting as it may be to cuddle up in this way in the middle of the night, you falling asleep could cause great harm to your baby. As you sleep, your arms will loosen and increase the chances of your baby falling out of your arms. Think you’ve got a system figured out so that this can’t happen? Don’t risk it. Your baby may suffocate if they fall at a weird angle while sleeping on your chest, and you’ll have no idea that it happened. Because your little one is so small, he or she will not be likely to dig themselves out of the hazardous position, and as a result, may lose his or her life.
Rather than take the risk, always allow your baby to sleep on your chest in an upright position, only when you are awake. Sometimes, just being on your chest helps, especially in situations in which your little one is in a new environment or is with you on an extended trip. Check our blog for even more tips about soothing your baby or toddler while in a new environment and dealing with issues, like baby and toddler jet lag.
What If Baby Rolls to Stomach While Sleeping?
So you’ve got an older baby that has found out how to roll over in the middle of the night, eh? Try not to worry. As mentioned previously, if your baby has mastered the rolling skill, he or she may indeed roll themselves over in sleep and it really isn’t of much concern unless you deem it as one.
Is your baby a younger one that has, somehow, managed to flip his or her body over before their time? Flip them back over quickly. Although he or she was able to manoeuvre on his or her own, babies that are younger than 6 months should be put back on their backs as they aren’t likely to be able to to do so on their own… even if they have managed to do it once or twice before. Never take that risk!
Why Is It Bad For Baby to Sleep Face Down?
SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is of primary concern when addressing issues of sleep safety involving infants. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome occurs for a variety of reasons, one of which can be sleeping on the stomach at a very young age.
Although often suggested by older generations, putting your young baby on his or her stomach to sleep is rarely a good idea. By doing so, you increase the risk of your baby breathing in too much carbon dioxide generated from when he or she exhales, which will then prevent your child from getting the oxygen he or she needs.
Moreover, while your baby is on his or her stomach, he or she is more likely to aspirate, or breath in, his or her own spit or vomit. To make matters worse, your child won’t be able to escape sundry hazardous situations when they crop up, such as having a sheet, blanket or other object covering his or her nose or mouth, leaving your baby with only seconds left to live.
With that said, you should never take the risk of having your baby sleep on his or her stomach before they are developmentally ready, even if they do seem to sleep better that way.
For more about deprivation of oxygen in the face down position, see the article presented by Science Daily pertaining to the devastating impact that face down sleeping positions can have on babies and the link to SIDS.
How to Stop Baby Sleeping Face Down
Use a Wedge
When in doubt, try using a wedge to prevent baby from rolling over. Just slide one of these useful gadgets in your baby’s bed below the waist to keep your baby safely on his or her back and to help alleviate your worries.
Not liking the idea of a wedge so much? You may be interested in other supports designed to keep your child from rolling over. Check out one here.
Tummy time is a great way to strengthen your baby’s back and neck muscles. By giving your baby plenty of time on his or her stomach during the day, he or she is more likely to develop the physical strength to be able to move themselves out of dangerous positions.
To start, lay your baby face down on a blanket or baby safe play mat. Lay a few safe and age-appropriate toys, such as a rattle or baby teether, within reach of your little one and you’re all set. Your baby will do the work as he or she lifts their head and flexes their backs while on their tummies.
Breathe Through Mattresses and Sheets
Some mattresses are specially designed so that if your baby happens to literally lie face down, he or she can still breathe through the mattress. Though we wish all mattresses were this way for the safety of our littles, the truth is that this isn’t so. Therefore, getting a breathable mattress is a great investment. Still yet, you’ll need to make sure that whatever sheets you lay over that mattress are also breathable. Cotton is almost always your best bet.
Get Them Used to It
If your baby isn’t a fan of sleeping on his or her back, don’t be surprised. Many babies actually prefer sleeping on their stomach, and sleep much better that way as a result. The problem is that many babies are inexperienced tummy sleepers and so this means they don’t know how to position themselves in a way that allows for maximum airflow.
Thankfully, babies who prefer sleeping on their stomach can learn to like sleeping on their backs once they become accustomed to it. To help your baby adjust, make sure your baby is on his or her back, or face up, as you are rocking or nursing them to sleep. As always, lower your baby into bed face up, and never face down. Eventually your baby will grow comfortable sleeping this way, and may even end up preferring it! If you are still finding this difficult or that your baby won’t sleep unless held, check out our post for how to deal with this all too common issue.
Roll ‘Em Over
When all else fails, you may have to roll your baby back over every now and again if he or she is young and refuses to sleep on his or her back. Remember, though, that once your baby is 6 months old and able to roll forwards and backwards, he or she is likely okay staying that way, provided that there are no hazards (such as loose blankets, crib bumpers, stuffed animals, pillows and more) in his or her way. Before you know it you’ll be well past these issues and have a restless toddler on your hands… and you’ll be wondering how to keep your child in their bed in the middle of the night, instead!
Back Really Is Best
No matter whether your baby is more comfortable on his or her back or stomach, the fact remains that the risks outweigh the benefits in terms of babies that sleep on their stomachs. While it may seem that your infant sleeps better at night this way, it isn’t worth the risk, especially for children under the age of 6 months. If you have specific concerns regarding the sleep quality of your little one, always reach out to your local paediatrician for help.
Always remember that when in doubt, always seek professional opinions about your baby’s health and well-being!