When can my child sleep on her belly?

The "Safe to Sleep" campaign (formerly known as the "Back to Sleep" campaign") was created by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of putting babies to sleep on their backs—every time. Babies who sleep on their backs have a reduced risk for sudden infant death syndrome (better known as SIDS). 

Since SIDS is the leading cause of death for healthy infants between 1 month and 1 year of age, the AAP recommends that parents and caregivers position babies on their backs at every bedtime and naptime until the age of 1.

Once your baby can roll over consistently—a skill which usually develops between 4 and 7 months of age—she may choose not to stay on her back all night long. If she rolls herself to her side or to her stomach, it's okay for you to leave her in that position. However, you should continue placing baby on her back when you first put her to bed.

Other SIDS prevention tips include:  

  • Avoid soft bedding. Use a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved crib mattress covered by a fitted sheet. Skip the pillows, quilts, soft stuffed toys, and crib bumpers (which were banned in the Safe Sleep for Babies Act as hazardous products). Learn more about creating a safe sleep space here
  • Avoid overheating. Set the room temperature in a range that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult, and dress the baby in a single layer of clothing or a sleep sack. Signs of overheating include sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash, and rapid breathing. 
  • Remember “tummy time”—while baby is awake. To avoid the development of a flat spot on your baby’s head, limit the amount of time she spends reclining in car seats, swings, and similar hard surfaces. Give her lots of time to play on her tummy while she’s awake. (But, if she falls asleep while playing, be sure to roll her over to her back.)

Medical exceptions to “back to sleep” may be necessary for infants with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or certain upper airway malformations. If your child is affected by either of these conditions, please discuss her best sleep position with her health care provider. 

Click here to read more about SIDS prevention and safe sleeping habits.

Last updated March 16, 2023

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