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Can a Newborn Baby Sleep on Her Stomach?

author image Rose Welton
Rose Welton is a journalism major and a freelance writer. Her education is focused on nutrition and early childhood studies, making her an expert when it comes to writing about health and children's growth and development. She has written numerous articles and blog posts on various topics for online publications and has also worked on an Internet news team.
Can a Newborn Baby Sleep on Her Stomach?
A newborn baby asleep on his back. Photo Credit kieferpix/iStock/Getty Images

You may find yourself wondering if your baby can sleep on his stomach, especially if he appears to be more comfortable that way. To prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, which remains a threat until your baby is 12 months of age, it is best for her to sleep on her back, instead of her stomach.

At Risk for SIDS

Although it is not known exactly how stomach sleeping attributes to SIDS, Healthy Children website states that it may be because on her stomach, your baby re-breathes in her own air and delivers less oxygen to her lungs. The American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending that babies sleep on their backs in 1992, and since then the rate of SIDS has declined more than 50 percent.

Questions About Spit-Up and Flat Spots

Some parents may feel that placing a baby to sleep on his stomach can reduce his risk of choking on spit-up during sleep. However, Healthy Children states that there is no evidence that choking is more frequent during back sleeping compared with other sleeping positions. Although your baby may develop a flat spot on his head from sleeping on his back, he will grow out of it as he gets older. You can still place him to sleep on his back and help prevent a flat spot by varying his position throughout the day while he is awake.

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No Blankets or Stuffed Animals

In addition to placing your baby to sleep on her back, you can also help prevent SIDS by making sure that she sleeps on a firm mattress. There should be no blankets or stuffed animals in her bed, and avoid dressing her in too many layers that can cause her to overheat.

Tummy Time When Awake

Although it is safest to put your baby to sleep on his back, it is safe for him to spend some time on his stomach while he is awake. According to Healthy Children, you should give your baby time to play on his tummy two to three times a day. This will help him to build his strength and improve his motor skills. Try holding a toy up in front of him to encourage him to lift his head and shoulders off the floor. Be sure to supervise your baby if he is playing on his stomach.

All Caregivers Should Know the Rules

In addition to placing your baby on her back to sleep, make sure that everyone who cares for her knows that she should not sleep on her stomach. In some cases, certain medical conditions can prevent your baby from sleeping on her back. If this is the case, her doctor will help you decide the best sleep position.

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