Baby Sleeping on Stomach - Is It Safe?

Baby Sleeping On Tummy – Things You Need to Know

There are many aspects to baby care. Baby’s feeds, clothes, baths, baby gear, and the list is endless. Another aspect which tends to be overlooked is the baby’s sleep. This is so because it is thought that babies sleep by default and whichever position they sleep in is completely natural. However, this isn’t the case. Your tiny one will need a little bit of guidance when it comes to sleep.

The first twelve months of a newborn’s life are known to be the most fragile period in a human being’s life. Apart from the numerous infections, allergies, and conditions they may develop, they are also at risk of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS. A baby sleeping on the stomach is believed to be one of the causes of SIDS. Let’s dive a little deeper into this topic of a baby sleeping on their stomach.

Video: Baby Sleeping on Tummy – Is It Safe?

Is It Safe for a Baby to Sleep on the Stomach?

So, the question is – Can babies sleep on their stomachs? It is theorised that a baby in the first twelve months of his life should not sleep on his stomach because he will re-breathe his own air. This makes him breathe recycled air, which contains less oxygen and reduces the functionality of the lungs. This can also lead to SIDS. Thus, one risk of the baby sleeping on the stomach is fatality due to a lack of oxygen. It is recommended by doctors that parents be cautious not to let a baby sleeping on his belly stay in this position for more than a few minutes.

When Can Babies Sleep on Their Tummies?

According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, the number of fatalities due to SIDS has reduced by 50% because newborns have been directed to sleep on their backs for at least a year. This allows their respiratory system to strengthen and develop naturally. They can breathe in more oxygen, thus reducing the risk of SIDS. Even after a year, it is best to ensure that babies do not sleep on their tummies for long durations.

What If My Baby Loves Sleeping on the Stomach?

It is essential to understand that a newborn does not have the motor skills required to turn onto his belly for the first four months. Once the baby does begin to turn over, it is essential to monitor the baby and his health, especially during the time he spends on his belly while he’s awake. Sleeping on the stomach must be avoided at all costs for the first year of a baby’s life. A newborn baby’s body has not yet developed the capacity to manage the re-circulation of oxygen. The excessive carbon dioxide that is circulated back into the baby’s system when he sleeps on his belly can prove fatal. If your baby cannot sleep on his back, contact a paediatric physician immediately.

Advantages of Baby Sleeping on Their Stomach

A baby will sleep in whichever position they feel comfortable in. Sleeping on the stomach does have its advantages which are as follows:

1. Comfort

Sleeping on the belly is soothing. Let’s admit it- We adults too love to roll over and sleep on our bellies. A blissful feeling isn’t it? The same goes for the little ones.

2. Strengthening of Muscles

When the baby is on their tummy, it helps strengthen their back and neck muscles.

3. Prevents Flat Head

Did you know that sleeping on the belly also constitutes tummy time? This helps prevent a flat head or spot from developing.

Risks Associated With a Baby Sleeping on Their Belly

Lets take a look at the different risks associated with baby sleeping on their belly which will help you stay informed. It’s often easy to overlook this, but keeping this in mind will prevent any untoward incidences.

1. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

The sudden unexplained death of a baby who’s less than a year old and is seemingly healthy is termed SIDS. These are also known as sleep-related deaths as they occur when the baby is sleeping.

2. Suffocation

As the baby is sleeping on their belly, they are unable to breathe through their nose or mouth if they are blocked by the bedding. This also happens if they roll into something like pillows or crib bumpers.

3. Overheating

When a baby lies on their tummy, overheating takes place as the mattress pushes up against them and air circulation is no longer possible. This may lead to the baby waking up multiple times due to overheating. Overheating is also linked to SIDS

4. Rebreathing

Rebreathing refers to the occurrence when one breathes in the same air they have exhaled. This unfortunately takes place when the little one sleeps on their tummy. When they breathe out, there’s no space for the exhaled air to escape, and the next air they inhale is the very same one. Due to this, the oxygen levels in their body decrease while that of carbon dioxide increases.

5. Choking

Babies are known to regularly spit up which is normal. If they are on their tummy, and a spit-up occurs, they may inhale it if it’s collected on the mattress below them, and lead to choking.

If Your Baby Rolls Over onto His Stomach, Should You Worry?

Studies conducted by KidsHealth show that most cases of SIDS occur during the first year of a newborn’s life – a majority of those cases being between two to six months. Babies with natural lower body strength tend to roll over by the sixth month. This has its benefits, as babies who spend time on their bellies after the first six months while awake can build upper body strength to lift their heads off the ground faster.

 Baby rolls over on stomach

Warning: It is essential to monitor the child during this period as SIDS is still a natural risk. Do not leave your baby on their belly unsupervised.

If your baby rolls both when he’s awake and asleep, it could be safe as long as it is after the first six months. This still requires monitoring and precautions. After the first six months, if your baby rolls onto his belly while sleeping, it is critical to remove any impediments to air circulation. This means there should be no blankets, stuffed animals, toys, etc. inside the crib with him. Consult your doctor and take necessary precautions so that your baby rolling over in sleep doesn’t cause problems.

Is It Possible to Let the Baby Sleep on Her Stomach If Supervised?

Yes, letting your baby sleep on her stomach under supervision is the best and preferable. Make sure you regularly and gently move your baby onto her side or back. This will help prevent SIDS and the other risks associated with a baby sleeping on their stomach.

Baby Sleeping on the Belly : Safe Sleeping Guidelines

There are multiple ways to ensure your baby is safe and well-rested, and that your baby’s sleeping position on the stomach doesn’t cause any harm.

  • Use a firm mattress: Using a firm mattress will ensure that your little one gets all the support he needs. Do not put him down on a pillow, waterbed, couch, or any other soft surface as it may encumber the quality of the air he breathes in. Experts also recommend that you do not place anything inside the crib while your baby sleeps.

  • Remove bumper pads: These accessories are quite common, and almost every crib will come with the option of having the pads fitted. However, it is recommended that you avoid installing these in your baby’s crib as they can be a suffocation hazard.

  • Don’t let your baby become too warm: Knowing the right temperature for your baby to sleep in can be daunting. However, if you feel comfortable in the room in short-sleeved clothing, then the temperature is ideal. It is generally recommended to keep the room temperature between 23 and 25 degrees Celsius.

  • Avoid covering the baby’s head: The light blankets you use for your baby should only cover him up to his chest with his arms outside the blanket. This ensures that the blanket doesn’t shift towards the baby’s head.

  • Use a pacifier: These devices can be a great tool to calm your baby enough to let him get good quality sleep. However, if he is uncomfortable with it, or if it falls out while he sleeps, do not force it.

Tummy Time When Your Baby Is Awake

While sleeping on the belly is not recommended for babies, it is imperative that they lie on their tummies while they are awake. Use a firm and rigid surface with a mat on it to lay your baby on his stomach. According to Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, M.D., M.P.H., babies need to lie on their stomachs while they are awake as it lets them build upper body strength and helps them breathe better while sleeping.

Do not stress your baby with this activity. Lay him down only for three to five minutes at a stretch in the beginning. You can later increase the time as your baby gets used to it and builds the right strength for it.


1. What Is the Difference Between a Baby Sleeping on the Tummy During the Day vs. During the Night?

The only difference between a baby sleeping on their belly during the day and at night is that it’s easier to monitor them during the day. This is because the child’s caretaker may be in deep sleep at night and it may be difficult to catch the signs that the baby is in distress.

2. Can My Baby Sleep on Her Stomach on My Chest?

Yes, absolutely. This is also a beautiful way to facilitate skin-to-skin bonding between the mother and child. Also, the risks associated when the baby sleeps on the stomach are much less here compared to if the baby sleeps on the bed.

3. Baby Sleeping on Back and Belly – What’s the Difference?

A baby may sleep on their back or belly depending on which position makes them more comfortable. The difference is that there are certain risks involved in sleeping on the belly like choking, rebreathing, SIDS, etc., if left unsupervised.

A newborn baby can sleep most of the day. This is only interrupted when the baby feels hungry. This crucial part of an infant’s development should be managed with extreme care and caution. Ensure you speak to your primary health care physician and paediatric specialists for a thorough list of dos and don’ts about your little one’s sleeping habits.


1. Tummy Time for a Healthy Baby; Safe to Sleep;

2. Reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); NHS UK;

3. Falusi. L; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Common Questions & Concerns; Healthy Children;

4. Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play; Healthy Children; 

5. Joy. K; Why Sleep Positioners Put Babies at Risk; Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan;; October 2016

6. Yiallourou. S, Sands. S, Walker. A, Horne. R; Baroreflex Sensitivity During Sleep in Infants: Impact of Sleeping Position and Sleep State; PubMed Central,; June 2011

7. McCarthy. C; Why some parents don’t follow the “safe sleep” recommendations for babies; Harvard Health Publishing;; September 2015

Also Read:

Benefits of Baby Sleeping on Floor
Is it Safe for Baby to Sleep on Side
Ways to Deal with Baby’s Sleep Problem

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