The idea of their baby rolling onto their belly at night makes many parents nervous. But is it a cause for alarm if your baby sleeps on their stomach? And when should babies be able to roll onto their stomachs on their own?
In this article, we’ll explain to parents and expecting parents how to make the prone position safer for very young babies at night time and at what point babies can sleep on their stomachs without any problems.
Why the prone position is important for babies' development
Being able to roll themselves onto their bellies on their own is an important milestone for babies. As such, many parents are pleased when their children master this step; it may cause anxiety to other parents, however, who worry about their baby turning onto their stomach at night and not being able to find their way back to the safe supine position without the help of an adult. So, why is the prone position so important for your newborn’s development?
For starters, children learn to turn their heads and hold them upright on their own while in the prone position. Not only does this improve head control, but it also strengthens the shoulder and neck muscles that your child will need to crawl and sit later.
At what point do babies start turning onto their tummies or onto their sides? First, keep in mind that each baby is different; unfortunately, there is no one size fits all schedule for baby development. The developmental milestones listed are only meant to serve as a rough guide. If your child develops slower or faster, or even skips some of these stages, there is absolutely nothing to worry about.
Development in months one and two:
Most babies can lift and turn their heads for a few seconds in the prone position even when they’re as young as a few weeks old. When they reach the age of about two months, they’re even able to lift their head high enough that it no longer touches the surface they’re lying on.
Development in months three and four:
By the time they’re three or four months old, babies begin to sit up for a longer period of time. At first, babies support themselves on their forearms and later on their hands.
Development in months five and six:
By the time they’re seven or eight months old, most babies are able to turn from their backs to to their sides, and then from their sides to their bellies. They use their hands to help themselves with this movement.
Why the prone position isn’t recommended for babies at night
Many parents ask why their baby should avoid turning onto their stomach while sleeping? The answer is that the correct sleeping position is especially important for newborns, and the supine position has proven to be the safest position.
Small babies may turn onto their stomachs at night and not have enough energy to roll back onto their backs on their own. Sleeping with their face on the mattress for a long period of time can make it harder for your baby to breathe.
The side position can also obstruct breathing in the lower lung area. When your baby lies on their back, their nose and mouth should remain free and the chest should be able to rise and fall unimpeded. For this reason, babies should preferably sleep on their backs until they can completely roll onto their bellies without any help.
My baby sleeps better on their stomach
Babies develop and improve upon their motor skills at night time, too. Parents know that their babies often turn back and forth, kick their legs or wave their arms. Once their muscles are strong enough to allow them to turn, many babies will start turning onto their side or stomach at night.
You can’t always prevent your baby from doing this. If your baby prefers to sleep on their belly and can already roll over on their own, they should also be able to raise their head and turn it to either side. As such, it might not always be necessary to make sure that your baby always sleeps on their back.
Babies start rolling over while they sleep when they’re about six months old. As such, you should pay special attention to their sleep environment around this time.
A safe sleeping environment for babies
As mentioned earlier, it’s not always possible to prevent your baby from sleeping on their stomach. However, you can make your baby's sleeping environment safer with a few simple tips.
- Refrain from using pillows in your baby's crib until they’re at least a year old. Many pillows are too soft for babies; as soon as they turn onto their tummy, their little head sinks too deeply into the pillow, which can lead to suffocation.
- A sleeping bag provides a safe sleeping environment at night. Sleeping bags restrict your baby’s freedom of movement, making it very difficult for them to turn onto their bellies. At the same time, however, sleeping bags don’t restrict your child’s movement to the extent that they prevent them from kicking their legs and moving around at night, and thus won’t impede your child’s development.
- Make sure your baby is properly dressed at night. Dressing your child in too thick clothes can result in their overheating. You can tell if your baby is too warm at night by how damp the back of their neck feels. Their hands or feet aren’t reliable indicators, as babies still don’t have proper blood circulation in these areas.
- Avoid a mattress that is too soft and snuggle toys that are too big during the first few months of your baby’s life. If your baby feels lonely and cries while falling asleep, lighter snuggle toys are more suitable than heavier ones.
How can you train your baby's prone position during the day?
If your baby turns onto their stomach at night and prefers to sleep in this position, it might not be a problem after a certain age. To make sure your baby is strong enough in this position, you can help them progressively strengthen the muscles they use throughout the day.
When your baby is two or three months old, you can train lifting their head by placing them on their belly. You can get their attention by placing a snuggle toy in their field of vision.
If your baby is not yet able to turn over on their own, you can familiarize them with the supine position. At night, your baby should be placed on their back. If your baby is unable to fall asleep while on their back, it’s best to let them fall asleep in your arms and then lay them down on their back.
A safe baby sleep with products from Zizzz
Baby sleeping bags are best for small and even slightly larger children, especially if they are made from completely organic materials and haven’t been treated with chemicals.
For this reason, at Zizzz we offer baby sleeping bags in different sizes and with different cute designs. Our sleeping bags are made from Swiss virgin wool and GOTS-certified organic cotton. We also carry sleeping bags for children aged from four to six years old.
For the hot summer months, we also offer special summer sleeping bags. These are made from one layer knitted organic cotton and are extremely breathable. Since they have no filling, they are ideal for warm summer nights.