What to do When Baby Flips and Flops in Her Sleep

Since the 1990s, we have all been taught that putting babies to sleep on their stomachs poses a significant risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). So, we all (hopefully) lay our babies to sleep on their backs, on a firm mattress in a safe crib. But, what should we do once those little critters start moving around on their own? It’s one thing to lay them on their backs as newborn infants, when they don’t have the strength or ability to turn themselves around, but in a few short months, they develop muscles and discover that they really don’t have to stay put if they don’t want to. SO, what do we do then?

First of all, don’t worry too much about it. Most babies start flipping from their tummies to their backs at about three to four months of age, if they’ve been given significant tummy time. However, it isn’t usually until the fifth or sixth month that most babies are able to turn over from their back to their stomach. While SIDS is still a potential issue until baby is a year old, the vast majority of SIDS deaths occur between two and four months of age. If your baby is able to flip from her back to her tummy by herself, she is probably past the point where sleeping on her back is critical.

That said, however, if you notice your baby has flopped over and you can turn her without waking her, do so. Until she is a year old, it is still best to have her sleep on her back. If you cannot turn her over without waking her, however, or if she repeatedly turns over onto her stomach, you should be OK to let her sleep that way.

Of course, you should always check with your pediatrician for the latest information about baby sleep. As new facts come to light, recommendations can and do change. As a matter of fact, if you were born before the 1990s, chances are your parents were advised to lay you down to sleep on your stomach to avoid choking on any spit up. Who knows, maybe your folks became concerned when you started flopping over to sleep on your back.

The bottom line is that once a baby can flip over, there really isn’t any making them stay in one position. Flip them over if you can, but don’t spend a lot of time or energy worrying about it. Make sure there are no choking hazards in the crib, and let them sleep. And while they’re at it, go catch a nap yourself.