will your baby choke from back sleeping (3)

Is It Ok For A Baby To Sleep On Its Stomach?

It isn't safe to put babies to sleep on their stomachs. That's because this position increases the risk of SIDS. The same goes for placing your baby to sleep on his side. From the side-sleeping position, your little one can easily roll onto his stomach and end up in this dangerous sleeping position.

It's important to reposition your baby onto her back if you see her change to a side or stomach position. However, some older babies can roll themselves back onto their backs after rolling onto their sides or stomachs.

If your older baby is comfortable rolling in both directions (back to stomach and stomach to back), you do not have to reposition her. Always make sure that there is nothing in the crib besides your baby.

Some researchers believe that sleeping on the stomach face down can block airways and impair a baby's breathing. Stomach sleeping may also increase the chance of your baby "rebreathing" the air he already expelled.

The chance of this increases if your baby's crib contains a soft mattress, bedding, stuffed animals, or a pillow near his face. Rebreathing expelled air causes a decline in oxygen levels and increased carbon dioxide.

Until your baby reaches her first birthday, always place your baby in her crib on her back. Make sure the crib has a firm mattress covered with a tight-fitting sheet.

The crib shouldn't contain loose bedding, bumper pads, blankets, quilts, pillows, or stuffed animals. It should be empty.

By all means, let your sleeping baby sleep. Once babies learn to roll over onto their tummies, a milestone that typically happens between 4 and 6 months but can be as early as three months, there's usually no turning them back (especially if they prefer snoozing belly-down).

Babies who can change positions easily usually have the agility to protect themselves from whatever it is about tummy sleeping that increases SIDS risk say, experts.

You should continue to put your baby to sleep on her back until her first birthday. And always abide by other safe sleep tips, including putting her down on a firm sleeping surface and keeping all other objects out of her crib like pillows, blankets, bumpers, loose-fitting sheets and plush toys.

Baby Nursery FAQs

Your baby should not sleep on their stomach until one year old. They should always be placed on their back to sleep during the first 12 months to ensure a safe sleeping position.

If a baby without sufficient head control rolls onto their stomach, they could obstruct their airways, which can be a suffocation risk, according to Dr Murray. The reason pediatricians don't recommend stomach sleeping or propping a baby up on their side is that it could set the stage for accidental rolling.

Many infants sleep better on their stomachs, but they are also much less likely to develop plagiocephaly, a deformation of the skull that leaves infants with flattened heads.

Studies suggest that stomach sleeping may increase SIDS risk through various mechanisms, including Increasing the probability that the baby rebreathes their own exhaled breath, leading to carbon dioxide buildup and low oxygen levels. Causing upper airway obstruction.

Like a baby that gets stuck on its stomach, this phase usually only lasts for a few weeks. The simplest solution may be to flip your baby back onto their back and use a pacifier or some shushing noises to help them fall back to sleep.

What To Do If Baby Rolls onto Stomach While Sleeping

will your baby choke from back sleeping

You've done your part and put the baby to sleep on her back. But as every new mom knows—no matter how exhausted you are—you can't help but wake up in the middle of the night to make adjustments should you find a baby sleeping on her stomach.

The good news is, depending on the baby's age, you might not need to do that. If your child is around six months old and has good head and trunk control (which he probably does, if he rolls over a lot), then it's not necessary to turn the baby over onto his back. (Of course, if you happen to be up, sure, go ahead and adjust him.)

But not all babies wait until the six-month mark to roll over; some as young as 3 or 4 months can turn onto their stomachs while they're sleeping. Gently turning the baby onto her back if this is the case. The following tips can also help keep the baby safe throughout the night:

  • Encourage lots of tummy playtime when he's awake, so he has plenty of practice moving onto his back by himself while you can supervise him.
  • Keep the crib clear of toys and blankets (unless you're swaddling), and keep the bedding tight. Loose blankets can increase the risks of SIDS.
  • Use a firm crib mattress and make sure it meets safety standards.
  • Stay away from wedges or pillows unless your pediatrician recommends them (in which case, she'll advise placing them under the mattress).

Remember, once a baby attempts to roll or turn over, it's important to stop swaddling the baby.

Benefits of Your Baby Sleeping on Their Stomach 

It's no wonder why many babies seem to prefer sleeping face down. Intuitively, they're onto something.

It's More Comfortable

If your baby has started sleeping on their stomach, there's one big benefit of this new position: They like it! It's very typical for babies to roll onto their stomach during sleep. For many, it's more comfortable than back-sleeping.

If your baby still seems uncomfortable on their back, don't flip them over or resort to using an infant positioner or nest. These are not safe and associated with infant deaths. 

Limiting your baby's carrying or wearing during nap times can help your baby get used to sleeping on their back.

Potentially Longer Sleep Cycles

Babies who naturally sleep on their stomachs tend to sleep longer. In addition, research has shown that pre-term babies, in particular, get longer periods of quality sleep when placed in the prone position.

Risks of Your Baby Sleeping on Their Stomach Too Soon 

Placing your baby on their stomach to sleep too soon isn't just breaking general recommendations—it can also have dire consequences.


Although stomach sleeping has not been proven to cause SIDS directly, it is a risk factor when infants are especially vulnerable during the first six months of life.

The AAP Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is crystal clear in their anti-stomach sleeping recommendations, citing a strong correlation between stomach sleeping and SIDS. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, countries that have launched campaigns encouraging parents to put babies to sleep on their backs have seen SIDS prevalence drop significantly.

According to Becker Freidman, working up to 30 minutes of tummy time per day can help your baby develop neck, shoulder, arm, and back strength—all of the muscles needed to roll back to front and front to back independently. 

This way, if a baby's nose and mouth are faces down on the mattress, they will be able to turn to the side, move about and breathe easily. 


According to Dr Murray, if a baby without sufficient head control rolls onto their stomach, they could obstruct their airways, which can be a suffocation risk. The reason pediatricians don't recommend stomach sleeping or propping a baby up on their side because it could set the stage for accidental rolling. 

As such, it's important to remove your child's arms from their swaddle or transition them to a sleep sack that doesn't inhibit their upper body after 12 weeks of age or earlier if they begin to show signs of rolling.

If a baby is swaddled past the point of rolling, they could end up face- and nose-down on the mattress without the ability to wiggle to a free-breathing position, adding that the same goes for weighted sleepsuits, which pose the same risks to rollers. 


When infants sleep on their stomachs, they may attempt to rebreathe air trapped in the bedding, leading to carbon dioxide build-up and low oxygen levels. As a result, most babies will wake up and breathe fresh air, after which they are fine. But some infants will be slower to respond or will not be able to roll over and will lose consciousness, one reason why rebreathing is a suspected SIDS trigger. 


Research suggests that stomach sleeping may inhibit the ability to release heat and regulate body temperature among low-birthweight babies. This could lead to overheating, another risk factor for SIDS. 

To reduce the risk of overheating, dress your baby in a lightweight wearable blanket, keep their head and face uncovered, and watch for signs your baby is too warm. If they are sweating or feel hot when you touch their chest, remove a layer or adjust the thermostat accordingly.

Upper Airway Obstruction

Many parents think that stomach sleeping infants are less likely to aspirate or accidentally breathe fluid into the lungs if they spit up while sleeping on their stomach. 

But it turns out the opposite is true. Due to the position of the trachea and esophagus, back sleepers are much less likely to aspirate if they spit up.

A Parent's Guide to Safe Sleep for Babies

at what age should i start sleep training my baby (2)

Most parents understand the necessary steps for reducing the risk of sleep-related infant death, but too many disregard them. Here's how to ensure safe sleep for babies during naps and bedtime.

In 2014, we worked with American Baby to poll 4,547 moms in partnership with Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization devoted to preventing childhood injuries. 

These moms, all of whom had babies age one and younger, recognized the rules—96 per cent know a baby should sleep alone, on his back, in a crib. But yet, they still veered off course when caring for their infant.

This is a risky move since about 3,500 infants die each year from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUID). Even if parents follow all the safety rules, some incidences of SUID, including cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), would still occur. Not all cases can be explained. But the number would be much lower" if parents followed proper safety protocols. 

We're not interested in finger-wagging: Moms who ignore sleep rules aren't bad parents!. Their baby is crying, and they decide that seems okay at 3 a.m.

Babies should sleep in a bare crib.

An astounding 73 per cent of moms in our survey say they have placed at least one item inside the crib with their baby. A blanket was most common (59 per cent), followed by bumpers (35 per cent), stuffed animals (23 per cent), and pillows (8 per cent). All are suffocation hazards for babies one and younger and can increase the risk of SIDS up to five times, regardless of Baby's sleep position, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 

Moms sometimes get a mixed message. "When women walk through a baby store or flip through a catalogue or magazine, they see bumpers, blankets, and stuffed animals, and they think they need to buy them to be good parents," director of academic development at Children's National Health System, in Washington, D.C., and chair of the AAP's task force on SIDS. 

When setting up your little one's crib, remember that bare is best. The only thing you should have in the crib is a fitted sheet. No pillows, no stuffed animals, no sleep positioners or sleep wedges (they pose the same suffocation hazards as pillows), and no crib bumpers, which have been linked to suffocation and strangling of infants.

Always put your baby down to sleep on her back.

Twenty-eight per cent of moms say they have put their baby to sleep on his stomach, a practice that leaves babies at increased risk for SIDS. And of those who take this risk, 47 per cent do it before their baby turns three months old. 

That's when the risk of SIDS is highest, in the first four months.

Many of these parents are what we'd call "conscientious objectors" "They think that what they're doing is somehow better or safer than what their pediatrician is telling them." 

Parents who are desperate not to hear their baby cry, for example, may find ways to rationalize stomach sleeping. It's true, babies do wake up more easily when they're on their back. But that may protect them from SIDS. Infants who sleep on their stomach don't arouse as well, which means they can get in trouble with their oxygen levels and never wake up.

Another common justification for stomach-sleeping (for 10 per cent of the rule-breakers) was worry that Baby would choke from reflux. No evidence supports this. Stomach-sleeping is riskier than back-sleeping when it comes to choking concerns.

To ensure safe sleep for babies, make back-sleeping non-negotiable. The only way you're going to teach your baby to sleep on his back is to teach your baby to sleep on his back. It's the same thing as an infant who hates to be in his car seat. He has to be in his car seat.

Be careful with co-sleeping.

Co-sleeping, defined as sleeping on the same surface with the baby, is common. Sixty-five per cent of the moms we polled have slept in bed with their infant, and of those, 38 per cent do so regularly. 

Most of these bedsharing moms worry about their baby's risk of accidental suffocation, but they do it anyway. Why? To help their child sleep, make nursing easier, bond with Baby, and because Baby won't sleep anywhere else, they say.

But bed-sharing is perilous. Studies show that about half of all suffocation deaths among infants happen in an adult bed. Compared with sleeping in a crib, the overall death rate is more than 40 times higher for babies who sleep with a parent. 

Multiple dangers in an adult bed can suffocate Baby, from a less-firm mattress and big pillows to fluffy comforters and extra blankets. Parents also mistakenly believe they're light sleepers and would wake up if they rolled over on their baby, but that's not the case in many tragic instances.

The safest option is to put the Baby to sleep in a portable crib in your room. Then, move her to a crib in her room when she's used to that. She will be safe, but she'll also sleep more deeply. We found that babies who sleep with Mom and Dad wake up twice as often than when they sleep alone in one study we conducted. This is because they don't learn to soothe themselves, which keeps them up.

Never sleep on the couch with your baby.

A staggering 53 per cent of moms in our poll report they share the couch with their infant, which astonished our experts. It's the most dangerous choice because couches can be softer and plusher than an adult bed, and Mom or Dad could accidentally roll over and suffocate Baby. 

Ironically, some parents think couch-sharing is relatively safe because if they put Baby between their body and the back of the couch, she can't fall off as she could in a bed. In reality, the child can become trapped between the parent's body and the couch, which can be much more dangerous.

As a safety upgrade, bond with your baby before bed, and then put her in her crib. When you're wiped out or if it's nighttime, avoid nursing or feeding your baby on the couch. 

You're more apt to doze off there than in a less comfy spot. If your sweetie falls asleep and you're tempted to snuggle her while you browse your Netflix queue, think twice.

Finally, never place a sleeping baby on a couch. About 18 per cent of moms say their baby has slept on a couch alone, but even if you're awake, it's never safe. It takes only a minute for suffocation to occur.


New parents get lots of information thrown at them about baby sleep, but among the most important pieces of advice is about baby sleep positions. Is putting the baby to sleep on her back best, or can she sleep on her tummy? 

And what happens, despite your best efforts, if you wake up in the middle of the night to find a baby sleeping on her stomach? Here's what you need to know so you and your baby can rest peacefully.

Scroll to Top