Baby Sleeping Face Down?

Updated on November 08, 2010
A.R. asks from Annapolis, MD
11 answers

My 5 month old rolls over and sleeps face down during the night. I'm talking flat on her face, not just on her tummy. I've tried rolling her over but she simply rolls back and buries her face again. I'm getting no sleep worrying about her. Anyone else have a baby who does this? Have you found a way to keep your child from doing it?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all he responses. My little girl actually has a cold right now so I could hear her breathing when she was on her face. She also turned her head to the side more frequently last night (maybe due to the cold). I feel better knowing other people's children have done this and are fine.

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answers from Washington DC on

my babies liked to face-sleep too. really, once they can manipulate themselves around they're fine.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My baby did this too and it freaked me out! Everyone said that since he was rolling himself, he was at a much lower risk for SIDs but that didn't stop me from worrying all night. Finally, my husband and I bought a video monitor so that we could check on him through the monitor every 5 minutes or so and turn up the volume so that we could hear him breathe. Honestly, he never had any problems and now he likes to sleep on his side (much more comforting!).



answers from Kansas City on

Oh my goodness...I know what you're saying! My son learned to roll and he did just that. I was so freaked out I didn't sleep for days! I tried to turn his head and he would either wake up or put it right back! Really, Nan is right, if she can roll she is at a much lower risk for SIDS, but it is still really scary! For me it just got to the point where I was so exhausted I finally slept through the night and when I did wake up, and he was okay, it was easier for me to sleep! I will say though that my son did stop that total face sleeping about a month later, so there's still hope!



answers from Washington DC on

We had real problems with one of our twins. She was very "twitchy," so we had to swaddle her for a long time. Because we saw her sister roll onto her belly while swaddled once, we had her sleep in a bouncy seat (while swaddled), since belly sleeping while swaddled seemed more dangerous than without swaddling.

Needless to say, we wanted to move away from this state of affairs. When she was a bit older (maybe 5 or 6 mo), I experimented with putting her on her belly for naps. (She was still twitchy, so back sleeping was hopeless, and @ 6 months the risk of SIDS has decreased by a factor of 10, if I recall correctly.) She did exactly what you're describing---instead of turning her head a bit, she would prefer to have her face straight down. So that kept us from the "put her on her belly" solution.

I'm sure you know the standard advice---if they can roll onto their belly, let them do so. I can definitely understand the concern of having her face flat down into the mattress, of course.

My take on this:
(1) Ask your pediatrician
(2) There are retail-level SIDS monitors available for purchase, but as far as anyone knows, they're useless
(3) Risk of SIDS has already peaked at 2--4 mo (if I recall correctly); like I say I'm pretty sure (not positive and don't have research reference in front of me) it decreases by a factor of 10 by 6 mo. Risk factors include smoking in the house, for example, so you might want to consider your situation.
(4) My impression from observing my daughter is that eventually babies that do the face completely down routine will "get it" and start cocking their heads to the side a bit
(5) Those things which force infants to sleep on their sides are not recommended
(6) Make sure you have a firm mattress with no potential for air pockets (ours has a pretty sleek nonporous surface, I think it's that way to make cleanup easy), and a very tight fitting, fitted sheet. (The few research papers I skimmed on the cause of SIDS---which in all truth no one really understands---included one in which they put (carefully monitored) infants in a situation where they were on their tummy breathing into a little air pocket, which presumably means they thought that was the most dangerous---i.e., the "rebreathed CO_2" hypothesis. If you have a flat, firm mattress and a tight fitting sheet, I assume there's less potential for rebreathing.)

Good luck.



answers from Washington DC on

My kids always slept on their bellies. Just make sure that you don't have fluffy blankets or pillows, etc. She'll be fine.



answers from Pittsburgh on

If she can roll over, she can stop herself from suffocating. All eight of my babies slept face down.
Hope this helps you get some sleep! :)



answers from Washington DC on

Once they can roll themself over, its safe for them to sleep however they want. If you have your doubts about her turning her head if needed, use your finger and cover her nose for a second, as soon as she can't breath she will turn her head.

Its nerve racking because we are pushed to allow our babies to only sleep on their backs. I remember the panic I went through when my son started rolling over to sleep on his belly.



answers from Medford on

Hi! Another Mom here with eight. And mine also sometimes slept somewhat face down as babies. They turned their head to the side. I also propped them on their side with a little blanket behind them. That was really the best. And be sure the mattress is pretty firm. Be near them.



answers from Stationed Overseas on

Mine did this too and I would stand over her and listen to her breathe. Kind of creepy now that I think about it. I know that once they can roll themselves they can handle sleeping on their stomachs. But the whole face in the matress does bother me but not her. If I did try to move her she would wake up immediately and wouldn't go back to sleep. So I go by that rule to never wake a sleeping baby. So I would let her do it and my husband and I would go and check on her like 50 times a night. She did stop doing it about a month later.



answers from Philadelphia on

Mine too! In fact, I just returned from his crib (he's 5 months) and looked up this very question because he wants to sleep on his face....only when he wakes himself does he realize, "oh..maybe I should put my face to the side? Nah..." I am worried! But it sounds as though, and what I am seeing from watching him, that if they have problems breathing, it wakes them and they move.
Thanks for this post!



answers from Washington DC on

My little girl did this too and totally freaked me out. Luckily she was a heavy sleeper so I could roll her back onto her back without completely waking her up. An hour later she would be back to face down and I would roll her over again. There were many nights of my husband and I doing this as I was so scared of SIDS. Finally she got the message and remained sleeping on her back. It seems like it was 2-3 weeks of her face sleeping and no rest for us but I just couldn't relax with her sleeping like that.
We also had one of those SIDS alarms that you put under the mattress and they sound if there is no movement for 20 seconds - they are sensitive enough for breathing movement. I was so scared of SIDS after she was born that I only slept during that first month when she was being looked after by my mother. Finally I bought the SIDS monitor and was able to sleep during the night. We only had one false alarm when we moved her from her bassinet to her crib and did not have the monitor hooked up right. I can't remember the brand of the monitor but if you do your research you can find ones that have very low false alarms.