When is it Safe for Babies to Sleep on Their Tummy?

By Lisa Ketchmark

December 11, 2019

Hi my name is Lisa. I am a proud Mama to 3 inquisitive, energetic, and beautiful children. I am also very proud to be a Registered Nurse and The Mama Coach for Hamilton, Ontario. I thoroughly enjoy educating and supporting families, in an attempt to make parenthood a touch easier.

When is it safe for babies to sleep on their tummy?  This is such a common question that The Mama Coaches are asked.  Parents get worried when they put their baby to sleep on their back and when they check in on their babe, they are on their tummy or side.  Should they return their baby to their back? Is their baby safe? 

This article is aimed to ease some fears, so you can rest instead of worrying about your baby.  By creating a safe sleep environment and positioning your baby properly, you can lower the risk of injury and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).  

When do Do Babies Start to Roll?

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society (2014), babies are usually able to roll independently from front to back by the end of the 3-month mark.  Remember every baby is different, however, if you are concerned that your baby is not meeting milestones please discuss this with your Doctor.

Canadian Pediatric Society (2016) recommends that starting from birth and for the first year, that babies always be placed on their backs for naps and bedtime. When they are strong enough to roll, they can sleep on their tummy or side, if they have the strength to independently get into that position. When you notice that your baby has started to roll, practice this skill during the day. By doing this, your baby will be able to roll from front to back with ease. If they don’t like being on their tummy, they know how and are able to return to their back.

It should also be noted that there are other elements required to create a safe sleep environment, it is not just how you place your baby into their crib.
  • Babies should sleep in a crib, in your room, up until 6 months.
  • Always place baby on their back for night time and naps.
  • Do not use sleep positioners or rolled-up blankets.
  • Whey they can turn over on their own, you do not need to return them to their back position.
  • Use a firm, flat surface for sleep. Soft surfaces are not safe (Ex. Couch, pillow, water bed, air mattress).
  • Car seats and infant carriers should not replace the crib for safe sleep.
  • Keep soft materials out of your baby’s sleep environment. Ex. Bumper pads, stuffed animals, pillows, comforters, quilts.
  • Make sure your baby is not too warm.
  • If you choose to swaddle, follow the safe swaddling technique. 
  • Baby should not be exposed to cigarette smoke. 
  • Ensure the crib meets Health Canada’s current safety standards.
  • Playpens are not safe alternatives for unsupervised sleep.

So please, first create a safe sleep environment for your baby and always place them in their crib on their back. When they are able to roll independently, usually by the end of 3 months, you do not need to return them to their back.

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