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Can Babies Sleep on Their Stomachs? Beware of the Dangers

Can Babies Sleep on Their Stomachs? Beware of the Dangers

For new parents, navigating through the advice and guidelines surrounding their newborn’s sleep can be an overwhelming task. A common question that comes up frequently is: Can babies sleep on their stomachs? This article is designed to provide parents and caregivers with an understanding of the potential risks associated with tummy sleeping, and to answer this crucial question.

Learn about the significant dangers associated with babies sleeping on their stomachs, including the risk of SIDS, difficulty breathing, overheating, and physical development issues. Stay informed about the safe sleep guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Introduction to Baby Sleep

First, it’s important to understand that an infant’s sleep pattern is different from that of adults or even older children. Babies have varying sleep needs, and these needs change as they grow. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies sleep up to 16 hours a day during the first few weeks of life.

The Risks of Stomach Sleeping

Stomach sleeping, although it may seem comfortable to some babies, presents several risks which we need to take into account when caring for our newborns. Here, we’ll dive deeper into these potential dangers.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year of age. It often occurs during sleep, hence the name “crib death.” According to research, babies who sleep on their stomachs have a significantly higher risk of SIDS. It’s hypothesized that this position may cause a baby to rebreathe their own exhaled air, leading to an increase in carbon dioxide and decrease in oxygen, which could potentially lead to SIDS.

Difficulty Breathing

When a baby is placed on their stomach to sleep, there’s an increased risk of asphyxia, a condition when the body is deprived of oxygen. As infants have little control over their head and neck muscles, they may have trouble turning their heads while sleeping on their stomachs. This can lead to their nose and mouth getting covered, making it difficult for them to breathe.

Overheating

Babies, especially newborns, have less effective internal temperature regulation compared to adults. Sleeping on the stomach can cause the baby’s body heat to be trapped, resulting in overheating. Overheating has also been linked with an increased risk of SIDS.

Physical Development Issues

Stomach sleeping could also lead to physical development problems. For instance, it may result in positional plagiocephaly, a condition where a baby develops a flat spot on the back or side of their head. Prolonged pressure on one area of the head, caused by always sleeping in the same position, is usually the reason behind this condition.

Stomach sleeping can bring about serious risks for infants, which is why caregivers and parents are advised to follow the “Back to Sleep” policy. It’s important to continue educating oneself about safe infant sleeping practices to ensure the wellbeing of our youngest one

…back sleeping does not increase the risk of choking. In fact, babies may be more likely to choke when on their stomachs.” – American Academy of Pediatrics

The Safe Sleep Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following guidelines for safe infant sleep:

  • Back to Sleep: Always put your baby to sleep on their back, not their stomach or side.
  • Firm Sleep Surface: Use a firm sleep surface covered by a fitted sheet.
  • Room-Sharing, not Bed-Sharing: Keep the baby in the same room where you sleep but not in the same bed.
  • Keep Soft Objects Out of the Bed: Keep soft objects, such as pillows and blankets, out of your baby’s sleep area.

When Can Babies Sleep on Their Stomachs?

By the time a baby can roll over by themselves, which typically happens between 4 and 6 months of age, the risk of SIDS significantly decreases. However, even when your baby can roll over, it’s still best to put them to sleep on their back. If they roll over on their own in the middle of the night, you don’t need to flip them onto their back.


While it may seem comfortable or even preferable for a baby to sleep on their stomach, the risks and potential dangers far outweigh any perceived benefits. It’s crucial to follow safe sleep guidelines to keep your baby safe and reduce the risk of SIDS. Always remember: back to sleep, tummy to play.

An infant’s safest sleeping position is on their back, in their crib. It’s a parent’s responsibility to create the safest sleeping environment possible for their child.” – American Academy of Pediatrics

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