Babies and Sleeping on Their Stomachs

Everything You Need to Know About Babies Sleeping on Their Stomachs

When we’re having difficulty sleeping, usually we know how to get into a comfortable position back to sleep. It doesn’t matter if you’re a back sleeper, side, front, or some other weird position – some people naturally prefer some positions and are more comfortable in them.

The same can be said for babies and even children. However, with babies the situation is much different. Babies don’t have the luxury of choosing which position they want to sleep in because based on their choice, some can be fatal. I’m going to cover what positions are best for babies and sleep and when you need to pay attention, as well as when you can let your guard down in regards to stomach sleeping.

Extreme Importance of Sleep for Babies

Compared to adults, children and babies alike need a much greater amount sleep to properly ensure healthy brain and body development, as well as proper growth. Even though adults still need plenty of sleep, the emphasis of importance on sleep is much truer for babies and children due to their growing brains and bodies. Let’s go over what happens when we sleep in general. The first part of sleep is nonrapid eye movement (NREM, otherwise known as quiescent sleep) cycle, which includes stages 1-3 of sleep.

During NREM, both our heart rate and brainwaves gradually slow down and our muscles relax. Next, our body releases human growth hormone and other hormones, does maintenance on cells and damage, heels injuries and the body, and most importantly – we simply rest. During REM or Rapid Eye Movement, the opposite essentially occurs and this is the state that typically dream in it.

Not only do you dream during REM, but your heart rate, as well as your breathing can increase or decrease, and your brain activity changes too. It’s interesting to think what our babies could possibly be dreaming about too!

Another interesting fact is that apparently during this time, memory and learning pathways grow and increase in the brain according to the National Institute of Health. This is so important for children and infants because as they’re developing, they require much more sleep than adults typically do (as we age, we typically require less sleep over time).

Infants under four months old typically need around 16 to 18 hours of sleep each day which includes roughly 8 to 9 hours of sleep during the night, and roughly 7 to 9 hours for napping.

Babies who are in the range of 4 to 12 months old should sleep about 12 to 16 hours each day.

Because as babies age, they should sleep for longer periods of time without interruption. Because of this, it’s recommended that they sleep at night for roughly 9 to 10 hours, while taking about 2 to 3 naps spanning 4 to 5 hours during the day. After this time frame, their overall total sleep will decrease, as well as number naps that they need.

SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and How to Prevent It

The unimaginable amount of sadness that the death of an infant can bring can absolutely ruin anyone’s life.

Even though my daughter spent the first two months after birth in the hospital, I was still worried. However, she was in good hands because she was always hooked up to a breathing monitor and the nurses were constantly checking her data to make sure that her heart rate, brain waves, and breathing were all doing well and had normal levels.

In the event that she did roll her on her stomach or wasn’t breathing, (thank goodness that never happened) the monitor would alert all the staff. She was basically kept in very good hands and the chance of her dying from SIDS in the hospital was slim to none.

As soon as I brought her home, SIDS became a possibility once again. I can’t even bear the thought of losing my little pumpkin! Before she even came home, I made sure to purchase a top-of-the-line baby breathing monitor and kept it on her each time she took a nap to ensure that that would never happen.

If you’re not familiar with baby breathing monitors, they are monitors that are worn on your baby’s body that can alert you whenever your baby rolled on her stomach, falls off the bed, or even stops breathing. Take a look at my baby breathing monitor buying guide here if you’re interested in getting one. (which I highly suggest you do to avoid disasters, heartache, and regret)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome refers to a sudden and unexplained, and most of all, absolutely devastating death of any baby who is less than a year old. Even though Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can occur at any point until one year, the typical range of babies who die from SIDS is about between 1 to 4 months old.

If the baby dies from SIDS, it could be quite difficult to determine the actual cause, and is most likely only found after an autopsy or investigation.

SIDS does not have any specific cause. There are typically numerous reasons why SIDS can occur. Regardless, there always various preventative measures that you can take to make the likelihood of SIDS as low as possible. One of the most effective measures of preventing SIDS have been the American Academy of Pediatrics. They had a campaign in 1994 called “back to sleep”, which significantly reduced the amount of deaths related to SIDS.

The campaign is currently known as “safe to sleep”, and has reduced deaths of SIDS by more than 60%, and as of 2015, made the rate of SIDS related deaths dropped to 39.4 deaths out of 100,000!

Babies and Back Sleeping

One of the most effective way to reduce SIDS is to make sure that you put your baby to sleep while they’re on their back. Before the 1994 campaign by the American Academy of Pediatrics, they actually suggested that parents should have their babies sleep on their stomachs so that they could prevents choking on their saliva in the middle of the night.

Even though the reason for this suggestion was unclear, the campaign did eventually overturn this advice and told parents to make sure that their infants slept on their backs. There have been studies that have shown that your infant does not have an increased chance of choking if they’re placed on their back.

Another positive of sleeping on their back is that it helps prevent accidental suffocation, which could be deadly.

I suggest that you get the “Tranquilo Safe Sleep” blanket (you can see a picture of a below). It’s a high quality, unique, sleep blanket that can swaddle your baby. It secures your baby in a comfortable way on their back when they sleep using it. It helps reduce the risk of tummy sleeping, rolling over, and climbing/falling out of their crib.

Simplicity Is Key

Even though back sleeping is important, it’s also just as important to reduce the chances of choking or smothering for your infant and their crib. All cribs should have a firm mattress made specifically for babies. All the sheets should be tightly fitted and not loose.

The crib should have no dangerous objects such as pillows, stuffed animals or toys, or bumpers. A sleep sack can be used in place of the blanket because it fits so tightly and snug around your baby while creating a safe hold that is free of choking hazards.

Once your baby gets older, something as simple as a blanket or stuffed animal can be very comforting to them and you can add that in to their crib. My daughter loves her rabbit blankey! She still uses it and it helps her fall asleep while she snuggles it tightly!

Keeping Your Baby Cool

Because overheating or excess high temperatures could possibly contribute to the risk of SIDS, it’s important to make sure that your baby is comfortable temperature wise and does not overheat themselves. Typical signs of overheating include very warm skin, wet or damp hair, and the most obvious sign, sweating.

Your baby should not be dressed in multiple layers either. Even as adults, we don’t wear multiple layers of clothes indoors.

A Smoke-Free Environment

Not only are cigarettes terrible for your health, dangerous during pregnancy, as well as for others around you, but they are also very detrimental and hazardous to babies.

Cigarettes have been linked to SIDS, and you might want to consider always smoking outside, switching to vaping, or even quitting entirely. It’s also extremely important to know and understand that through breast-feeding, you can transfer anything negatively to your baby through your milk. This includes carcinogens that are commonly found in cigarettes and even some vapes.

Avoid at all costs if you truly value your baby.

Should My Baby Never Sleep on Their Stomach?

To keep things short, if you want to keep your baby happy, healthy, and safe, you should ensure that your baby sleeps on their back until they are strong enough and able to roll themselves over from back to front and vice versa. Some babies can achieve this as early as six months old.

Regardless if they can do so, should you still keep putting your baby to sleep while they’re on their back? The answer is simply yes. If your baby does feel uncomfortable or could possibly start struggling to breathe, at this point, they should be able to roll themselves over and correct the problem.

What If My Baby Would Rather Sleep on Their Stomach than Their Back?

Because each and every baby has their own preferences, is entirely possible.

Regardless of your baby’s preference, you should at least try the minimum to encourage them to sleep on their back if you can.

My daughter was one of these babies who prefer to sleep on her stomach. What I did was gradually make her spend more time on her back, throughout the day and even when she was awake. Another good way to achieve this is to make sure that they start their naps and bedtime on their backs too.

If your baby still prefers sleeping on their stomach, you could give swaddling a try. It seems that babies who prefer stomach sleeping usually tend to curl up in the fetal position. Maybe it makes them feel more comfortable. Because they spend the first nine months of their life in their mother’s womb, this is a likely reason why they prefer this position. Swaddling is a great alternative to give your baby what they truly want, which is a comfortable, and cozy feeling of security.

As long as you can make your baby feel secure, comfortable, and happy with no compromises or shortcuts that could possibly endanger their life, you’ll achieve this goal. If nothing you do is able to encourage them to sleep on their backs, you should talk to your pediatrician about any potential advice that they could offer.

Your pediatrician is the most qualified individual in your life who can determine your baby’s risk of potentially getting SIDS, and can give you the heads up on whether they are ready to begin sleeping on their stomach.

Always follow your pediatrician’s recommendations, because you wouldn’t want to live through a horrible tragedy such as SIDS. No parent would ever want to.

About the Author Elizabeth

Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth. My beautiful daughter Alice keeps me awake occasionally...but when I'm busy and can't sleep, I post parenting tips and different ways you can get your baby to sleep soundly through the night, and even naps!