What are the Big NOs for baby sleeping on stomach

Is it okay for baby sleeping on stomach and the risks of doing so

By Matthew Tarkington
What are the Big NOs for baby sleeping on stomach

How should a baby sleep?

FINALLY, your little one has gone to sleep. The struggle took longer than you ever expected, with all of the fussing, moving and downright refusal to lay down, but it looks like you have done it. They are finally comfortable with their eyes closed, sleeping and snoring... but then you wonder, are they safe?

We have the potential sometimes, as parents to want our child to have their time of sleep even if it means sacrificing their own personal safety. It isn't that you desire to hurt or harm them, but simply desire for them to have this time of quiet and a moment of sanity yourself. This doesn't make you a bad parent, you want your baby to be comfortable and peaceful, and are striving to help create the environment where they can develop their best. And sometimes that means parents giving in to the temptation to allow their child to be comfortable by placing them to sleep on their tummy. The problem is, you may be putting your child at risk allowing them to sleep on their stomach.

So what are the factors for a good and safe "baby sleep" time?

Try to have as few obstructions as possible

No obstructions or suffocation possibilities

While you may feel having stuffed animals and multiple blankets are in the crib to help your little one stay cozy, all of those items pose significant risk factors to their safety while they sleep. When your child is awake, these toys are not endangering them and they should be encouraged to play with them, but during naps and night time, the best bet is for a clean mattress. 

Make sure that your bed area is free of any sort of obstruction that could harm breathing during sleep time.

Sharing a bed with your child is a definite no

Children should not share a bed with their parent

I understand the desire to keep your infant as close as possible, but co-sleeping is never a safe option. Half of all baby suffocation happens in an adult bed and there are many factors as to why:

  • Adult beds are never usually as stiff and rigid as a baby mattress.
  • Large pillows, heavy comforters, and other items could cause suffocation.
  • Parents can be exhausted from the day and unknowingly put their child in danger.

A good alternative for parents who desire to be right next to their child while they sleep is to have a crib or bassinet off the side of the bed where your baby can sleep on their back in a bed designed for their safety and comfort.

The child and the parent should nap in different areas

Sharing couches for naptime is equally dangerous

Couches are much softer than infant beds and designed to sink in when you sit in it. Couple this with a tired parent and large pillows and obstructions and co-napping on couches becomes a tragedy waiting to happen. There are many sad stories of naps that never ended well.

Couches are not designed or meant for babies. Portable bassinets are good resources to help with afternoon naps near a parent.

What are the risks and dangers of baby sleeping on their stomach?

Make sure babies begin their sleep cycle on their back, not side or stomach

Many parents do not actually factor in the dangers that are associated with "tummy sleeping" children. They think that allowing their child to sleep any way they feel is healthy and natural and just isn't a big enough issue to worry about.

However, nothing is scarier for a parent than the thought of the possibility that your child could suddenly stop breathing without warning. This frightful scenario is the greatest risk associated with a child sleeping on their stomach: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (or S.I.D.S. for short).

Your child's safety is serious

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome isn't fully understood yet. But we do know that sleeping on their stomach is one of the most dangerous factors associated with this problem, and there are several factors that are a possibility as to why:

  • The baby has a good possibility of re-breathing in the exhaled air which can lead to greater amounts of carbon dioxide entering into their system.
  • Laying on their stomach hinders heat release, which can cause a baby to overheat
  • In the position of face down, there is a high probability of airway obstruction.
  • Babies who sleep on their back have a sudden decrease in blood pressure and heart rate control. 
  • Babies who sleep on their backs are much less likely to develop any sort of congested nasal passages, ear infection or fever.

Help! My baby rolled over and slept on her tummy for the first time

First thing, don't panic. All this talk of the dangers of belly sleeping has the potential to bring fear and guilt out and increase your already high level of parental nerves. If your child ends up turning themselves onto their back, this is a GREAT SIGN. Your child is growing and developing in a great way. Rolling over onto their tummy is a part of child development.

If your baby is anywhere from four to six months, rolling onto their stomach on their own is a vital part of their growth and should be encouraged, not feared. The focus that we as parents should have is understanding that our children should start every sleep cycle on their back. 

If your child is under four months it is incredibly rare for them to actually have the strength or ability to turn onto their tummy themselves - so dealing with this issue before that age isn't really even brought up. However, if in a rare case, your child under four months turns onto their stomach during their sleep, and it helps your peace of mind, feel free to gently turn them back to their back. Again, there is no hard and fast rule for this case as it is incredibly rare, but trust your own judgment and instincts in these cases.

Should I flip baby over if they sleep on tummy after rolling over?

The short answer to this question is no, you shouldn't need to. In almost every case of a child turning onto their belly after first being laid on their back, they are over six months of age. It is especially rare if your child does it before four months of age. For the most part, children that have this ability are past the age when sudden infant death syndrome is much of a factor anymore and have trunk and neck control enough to bring them out of harms way while sleeping.

Your focus to ensure the child's safety should be that within the first year of their life, children should be laid onto their back to begin each sleep cycle in order to ensure proper circulation, breathing and temperature control. It may seem like a simple thing, but is incredibly important to note.

Is it okay for newborn to sleep on their tummy on my chest?

This is a bit more difficult of a question to answer as there are several factors involved to see if it is safe. While doctors everywhere warn that allowing your child to sleep on their stomach at any time increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, that is not to say there are not times when it is okay for a baby to sleep on their tummy, on your chest. We will discuss a few of those here:

1. Skin to skin time with mommy or daddy is great for a child

First, encouraging as much "skin to skin" time with your child is great for their development and even for your own health. Pediatricians have noted that having a child on your chest can help increase healthy lactation and definitely helps in you bonding with your child in a special way. Just make sure that their face is not pressed up against your chest and their airflow is not blocked by clothing or any other possible items while they are laying on you.

Skin to skin time is important for both parent and child

2. Skin to skin time helps fight against some health issues

Having time with your child on your chest, especially when it is skin to skin will help reduce sleep apnea in children, calm birth related fatigue and can actually react as a painkiller for newborns. These and other amazing facts truly show what a benefit having your child on your chest can truly be for your young one.

3. Are you tired?

While it's healthy for you to have time with your child on your chest, there are certain risk factors if you are so tired that you may roll over or not notice that the child has turned their head and airway has become blocked by your own skin or some obstruction. Make sure you are alert enough to adjust your child if needed.


The only way to ensure your baby is safe and secure when they slumber is to ensure that they are laying in their own bed, away from any obstructions and ALWAYS on their backs to start every sleeping cycle.

Although you cannot always protect a child from the dangers of this world, we can do our best as parents to provide an environment where their safety is of our utmost concern. As a parent you can do these things to help your child be both comfortable and secure when they slumber.