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When Can Babies Sleep on their Belly?

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

One day you’ll place your sweet baby on their back for nap time or bedtime, and then they will inevitably flip onto their belly. The first time this happens, is certainly a moment you won’t want to miss! It can be exciting, but also a little nerve wracking.

Some babies may have been exhibiting this skill already during the day, while others may start showing off their new skills in their crib. Your baby is now considered mobile and it’s highly likely that they will continue to practice their new rolling skills VERY often.

Common questions about baby rolling in bed

  • · What are you supposed to do when your baby starts rolling?

  • · Is it OK to place your baby on their stomach to start off the night?

  • · What are you supposed to do if your baby gets “stuck” on their tummy?

  • · Do you have to constantly flip your baby back onto their back throughout the night?

Follow along to find out!

Is it safe for babies to sleep on their belly?

When it comes to baby and toddler sleep, I am always team SAFETY first! Putting your baby to sleep can be nerve wracking to say the least. Whether your baby is sleeping in the same room with you, or in their own nursery, it IS a time of separation for the both of you. It’s also a time that you may be sleeping as well.

In short- try not to lose sleep yourself if your baby rolls onto their belly during nap time or bedtime. Once baby can roll over onto his or her tummy it is actually considered safe for them to stay like that even during nap time or bedtime, as long as there are safety precautions taken into consideration.

1) Stop Swaddling – Once your baby can roll, it’s time to start packing up those swaddles. It’s no longer safe for your baby to be swaddled as it restricts your child’s ability to use their arms to get into a different position.

2) Follow the ABC’s of Sleep “Alone, Back, Crib”- You’ll want to be sure that your baby’s crib is free of any loose bedding, bumper, blankets or stuffed toys. The only thing allowed in your child’s crib until age one is a tight, fitted sheet. After age 1, you may introduce a lovey as a comfort item if you wish. Your baby should always be placed on their back to go to sleep, but it’s OK if they don’t stay like that, if THEY got themselves onto their belly to begin with.

For these reasons, you want to make sure you are practicing safe sleep habits at nap time and bedtime to protect your little one against any potential hazards that could occur during sleep. At Tweet Dreamzz, we always follow the safe sleep guidelines provided by the AAP.

The thought is that if your baby got themselves onto their belly in the first place, then they are indeed strong enough to either roll back onto their back OR strong enough to put their head to the side while sleeping on their stomach. It may take some practice to say the least, but in due time, they will get it and be able to enjoy some amazing belly sleep! Generally, around 6 months old is when we see good head and trunk control and the ability to roll in both directions.

As a baby, I was put to sleep on my stomach. Was that wrong?

Sleeping in the prone position was encouraged for many years until doctors noticed an increase in unexplained infant deaths. Your parents simply did not know any better and were using the best advice given to them at that time.

In 1994 the “Back to Sleep” campaign was launched, and the cases of SIDS were significantly reduced. The times have changed and today we know that placing your baby on their back for sleep is the best thing to do for them until they can freely roll in both directions.

If baby slept on their belly in the NICU, can they do it at home?

If your baby was born prematurely, you may have seen them sleeping on their belly in the NICU. In a NICU setting, your baby(s) was under constant monitoring. They may have been placed on their belly due to a medical condition or concern. Once your baby is home from the NICU, they should always be placed on their back until they can freely roll in both directions on their own!

When my twins came home from the NICU, I remember calling the hospital to ask if they could sleep on their belly at home. It can be confusing to understand why it would be allowed in a hospital, but not at home. Remember, in the NICU, the nurses are alerted instantly via a portable monitor if anything at all is seemingly off with your baby. At home, you don’t have that extra security blanket of monitoring devices, so you’ll want to be extra cautious. Be aware that at home monitors like the Owlet or Nanit are not medical grade devices.

What if baby gets stuck on their belly?

First, I want you to take a deep breath and remember that this is actually a very short phase in your baby’s life (even though it may feel like forever!)

Getting stuck on the tummy can be common in the early stages of learning how to roll. Usually, babies know how to get onto their belly, but struggle with how to roll back onto their back. The best thing you can do is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Practice rolling all throughout the day. The more practice they get, the quicker they will learn how to roll onto their back. Lots of tummy time with a mirror and play-mat is a common exercise we suggest.

Instead of going in 10x at night to flip your baby over if they get “stuck” on their tummy, it’s better to try and soothe your baby while on their tummy so that he or she can learn to be comfortable in this new position. Try some shushing, patting and gentle back rubs to calm down baby while on their belly. Of course, if baby is stuck with their head completely face down in the mattress, you’ll want to adjust them so that their head is to the side or flip them back onto their back.

Introduce a sleep sack for better sleep for baby

Sleep sacks are simply a wearable blanket. It’s a cue to your child that sleep is coming and sleep sacks can help prevent legs getting stuck in the crib. It’s not suggested to use a weighted sleep sack for safety reasons, and if your child is wearing a weighted sleep sack, it may prevent them from easily moving their body and changing positions.

This phase may seem very long when you’re in it, but in no time your baby will be rolling freely in both directions. The best thing you can do is stay calm and embrace this new skill.

Is sleeping on belly safe?

To sum it up, you’ll always want to place your baby down on their back initially until they are a year old. Once your baby can freely roll in both directions, it’s OK to leave them in that position as they have proven that they have the strength to put themselves in whatever sleeping position is most comfortable for them.

Give your baby lots of time to practice rolling during the day through playtime and tummy time. Make sure your baby’s crib is a safe place for them to sleep and for them to practice rolling if they wish. Once your baby is sleeping on their belly consistently, you may notice some more consolidated stretches of sleep as baby is now able to move more freely and has the freedom to choose his or her preferred sleeping position. Hooray!

Stellina Ferri is the author of this article. Stellina is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and mom of three.

She supports families through the journey of better sleep as a consultant with Tweet Dreamzz Sleep Consulting. She lives in the Boston, MA area with her family. Find out what solutions she has for you by Booking a free call!

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