When babies start to roll somewhere between 4-6 months, many find that they’re more comfortable sleeping on their tummy. Sometimes, no matter how many times they’re rolled over onto their back again, they keep returning to their front.
With all of the safe sleeping recommendations of sleeping bub on their back, this can be really worrying for parents. But, it becomes even more concerning when their preferred position is to sleep face down.
Have you woken in the night to find your baby with their face on their hands and pressed into the mattress? If you gently move their head to the side again, they’ll probably return to the face down position. The fear that they’ll suffocate can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing.
We don’t want you to lose any more sleep over it (because how can you relax when they’re in that position!), so we hope you find this information about face-down sleeping helpful and reassuring.
Tummy sleeping is normal and many babies will prefer to sleep this way once they’re able to roll onto their front independently.
According to Red Nose, you don’t need to stop them from doing it, but you do need to make their sleep environment as safe as possible, including the following:
- Parents are advised to share the same room as their baby for the first 6-12 months to reduce the risk of SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Death in Infants). Both night and day sleep should be supervised, as in baby should be checked regularly.
- Always place them on their back at the start of sleep time.
- Stop swaddling and move them to a safe sleep bag with their arms free.
- Move them to a cot if they’re in a bassinet.
- Ensure that the mattress is firm and flat (not tilted or elevated).
- The cot must be empty of everything, such as lamb’s wool, soft toys, bumpers, pillows, blankets, and doonas/duvets.
- Make sure your baby’s head and face remains uncovered.
- Remove any teething necklaces or dummy clips/chains for sleep times.
- Do not use any devices that keep babies in a particular position.
- The sleeping environment should be smoke free.
There’s no need to wake your baby when you find them with their face down. You can try to turn their head to the side, but they will probably return to their position of comfort. Whilst you don’t need to stop them from sleeping this way, you can help to build strength in their neck and upper body muscles.
Increase the amount of supervised tummy time they get each day. This will help them to roll back over or lift their head when they need to in their sleep space.
Make it fun by using some of our tips to make tummy time more enjoyable. As your baby gets stronger and more active, they’ll move around the cot more and get themselves into all kinds of positions.
Some further considerations when babies sleep face-down
- Does your baby have a dummy/soother for sleep? Sometimes babies sleep in particular positions to keep the dummy in their mouth. You might consider removing it if your baby is waking when it falls out. We have some gentle solutions for that here.
- Is your baby mouth breathing at all? Again, sometimes babies who mouth breathe get themselves into certain positions to comfortably breathe. This is a red flag that something else is going on that will need to be explored. If this is your bub, please consult your GP, lactation consultant, or maternal and child health nurse.
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