Need Help Getting Baby to Sleep on Her Back

Updated on January 24, 2011
A.S. asks from Lincoln, CA
18 answers

Hello Mommies,
I have a six week old little girl and am having trouble getting her to sleep on her back. She sleeps great in her car seat and will sleep for 2-3 hours in the baby bjorn while I'm holding her. We've been using the car seat at night because it works so great, but I am trying to transition her away from this. I've tried swaddling her and she does not like this and cries until I unswaddle her. I have been trying throughout the day to lay her down on her back in her bassinet. I wait until she is showing signs of tiredness or is even asleep and lay her down staying with her with my hands on her, but each time she wakes up. I don't pick her up immediately, but she doesn't go back to sleep until I do. I don't mind holding her, but I do have a 3 year old who needs my attention too. Any tips and suggestions would be great. Thank You!

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answers from Seattle on

Try putting her on her tummy nothing wrong with that, and as she gets older she will move around and decide how she likes to sleep best.
My son would never sleep on his back, so he slept on his tummy he was much happier that way, and now months later he is a side sleeper. Let her decide and go from there.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

What kind of swaddle to you use? We never managed with the blankets, but bought one of the velcro ones and swaddled the kids super tight - it worked miracles. My youngest is about to be unswaddled and I'm fearful of the next month!

I've not used it, but friends swear by the nap nanny.

Just remember she's a tiny, tiny baby entering her peak fussiness period (6 weeks - 8 weeks) and loves nothing more than to be next to you. She'll never be this tiny again. It's tough work navigating multiple kids when one's so small, but speaking as a mama of three under three, it can be done!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Johnstown on

Honestly, NONE of my 3 girls would sleep on their back nor do they to this day. Babies were ALWAYS put on their bellies with their heads turned to the side until recently. As long as there's nothing obstructing her breathing, I wouldn't be concerned that she prefers her belly/side to her back. Just let her sleep how she's comfortable and you'll get sleep as well.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Both of my grandchildren slept for several months in their car seat. My granddaughter was eventually diagnosed with asthma and I think that she could breathe better in her car seat. My grandson was eventually diagnosed with GERD and I know he spit up less sleeping in his car seat.

We just put the car seat in the crib and let them sleep. I suggest that if she sleeps this way then let her sleep in her car seat.

I also suggest that you could let her sleep on her side or tummy. Have you tried using tightly rolled up blankets on either side of her so that she stays on her side? You can also buy foam wedges to help.

For years and years babies were allowed to sleep on their tummys. Yes, a very few babies died of SIDS. Less than 1% I think. I suggest that tummy sleeping done appropriately is OK when that's the only way a baby will sleep and especially after they're able to roll over.

They have to be layed down on a firm mattress with no pillow or soft blankets/crib fenders. Their neck should be strong enough to lift their head and turn it to the other side.

I've attended a few crib deaths and all but one had a crib full of soft things. The one that didn't wasn't identified as SIDS. Cause was listed as unknown.

I also suggest that when you wait until she's tired that she has no patience to comfort herself to get to sleep. Start a routine that includes regular sleep times before she's so tired.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Our daughter was never a back sleeper.. so we placed her on her tummy and she slept great. at 6 weeks she was sleeping at least 6 hours at night..
She was in a cradle right next to me, so I coul dhear her all night..

Doctor said it was fine..

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Augusta on

My daughter was never a back sleeper, she WOULD NOT sleep that way. My son slept on his back.
MY suggestion, put her on her tummy.
10yrs ago they said to put um on their tummies to keep them from choking on their spit up. Now it's back , in another 5 or less it will be side only.
No one knows what really causes SIDS.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

If its just laying her down, try warming the area first (with a towel just from the dryer maybe) - that worked for a friend who's son would always wake as soon as she tried to lie him down. She then got flannel sheets to stop the warm towel method, which seemed to stay warm/cozy. Check the area where she's lying down to make sure streams of light aren't hitting her face from windows. If you're comfortable with the idea, hang t-shirts that you've slept in from the sides of the bassinet so your scent is close.

Another friend had her daughter sleeping in the car seat, in the crib - but found that it took months to break her of this, along with the daughter only taking naps in the car/carseat. So, maybe you could keep doing what you're doing until she starts rolling?

My son was a belly sleeper, even the NICU (he was a premie) had trouble keeping him on his back or swaddled. My mom said all of us 6 kids were belly sleepers. And as others have said, belly sleeping used to be considered the safest (I remember this with hundreds of kids that I babysat and had in preschool over the years). I've known so many moms who finally found that their babies slept on their bellies, and they let them. If that's what works for you and your baby, then that's what works.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Yes, swaddling might work. I also suggest not waiting to lay her down until she's super tired. It may be that she's so tired she wants the comfort of you so if you lay her down more during the times she is awake and wants to play or wiggle it might help her transition more smoothly to being on her back, or just away from you in general! My daughter would sleep anywhere at the age and wouldn't peep if you moved her somewhere else, my son was different! He wouldn't transition to the bed or the swing or anywhere if he was asleep and it drove me bonkers! I will say he eventually did grow out of that and I can now put him in bed if he falls asleep in the car but it probably took until he was about 4-5 months...!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

We kept my middle grandson in a reclining bouncy seat until he was about 8 months At that point he was fussing and really wanted to sleep on his stomach. He had reflux so laying him down flat was out of the question unless we wanted to clean up puke in the middle of the night. At night time we had one in the baby bed and we just put him in it and fastened him in. He was comfortable and slept solid for the entire night as soon as we figured out what to do to keep him reclining instead of flat.

Maybe she just likes the position.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wichita on

swaddling was the only thing that worked for my daughter. we bought a self swaddler at Babies R Us, and she was a totally new sleeper. She was swaddled until 9 months.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I forgot to respond to this so long ago, but I wanted to share my experience. Both my kids HATED to be swaddled, and I don't use the word "hate" lightly. Recent research is showing that infants being able to move their arms and put their hands/fingers to/in their mouth is actually an important part of their development, so if you swaddle, try to swaddle with the hands up by the baby's face.

Both my kids also wouldn't sleep on their backs. My son was 5 days old and hadn't slept longer than 30 minutes at a time (unless he was on my chest). I was on the phone with my mom, and she heard him crying. She asked what was wrong, I told her he wouldn't sleep, and she said, "I don't know why you don't just put that boy on his belly." I laid him on his belly, and HE SLEPT FOR 5 HOURS!!!!!!! He's now 4, and is still a tummy sleeper. My daughter went much the same way, although she was more content on her side. Most doctors and nurses, etc will tell you never to place an infant on their belly to sleep, but if your baby is strong enough to lift her head to turn it, then it's safe enough to put her to sleep on her belly.

I hope you find some peace soon :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Gainesville on

The reason the Back to Sleep campaign was started in this country is because researchers began looking at countries that had very, very low rates of SIDS and what they found was those countries put babies to sleep on their backs. Don't fall into the anecdotal trap of "we all slept on our tummies and we are just fine". I don't want to sound alarmist but there is a very good reason back to sleep is recommended.

Try using a crib wedge under the sheet. Around $10 at BabiesRUs. Worked very well for my 2 that had just a bit of reflux and made it uncomfy for them to lay flat.

I second warming the sheets before laying her down. I made a rice bag that I could microwave and lay on the bed before putting my daughter down. Made a world of difference.

Also google 4th trimester. That is where baby is right now. This will give you some great info.

Try the swaddle without putting her arms in. That may help.

Remember, she's just 6 weeks old. She is just beginning the long process of learning how to navigate this great big world and you provide the comfort and security she felt in the womb.

You can also try a mayawrap. That was a life-saver for me with my high needs preemie who needed to be held alot in the beginning after he got home.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Missoula on

I agree with trying to swaddle her. It made a world of difference with my son.



answers from Pittsburgh on

There has been a huge decrease in SIDS deaths since the 'back to sleep' campaign. It absolutely does matter how they sleep. You could try putting her down in her crib/bassinet when she is not asleep and let her fall asleep herself. Pick her up if she cries but let her learn to fall asleep herself. Best of luck.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi A.-
I have been in that exact situation. We had to use the swing. He slept in this in the evening and for naps. I did research and spoke with the ped about any potential harm and was assured there was no real risk. Around 10 weeks we slowly started to transitioned him to a crib and it worked! By 3 months he was completely transitioned to a crib and sharing a room with his sibling.
Good luck!



answers from San Francisco on

Not sure if you need more advice, but I did my own research on this....swaddling should be used until 7 weeks, can't remember why, but there was good research behind it...
I know everyone says to not sleep on tummy, but it was my only choice (since I had other responsibilites in my home too!) I made sure to have a tight fitting sheet, firm mattress, no crib bumper or anything in crib, and blew a fan sort of in the direction of my child. I found that all children are born with the automatic response to fight for their life when they get suffocated by something (moving thier head, batting off things from their face) Sids is a gene that kids are born with in their DNA that interferes with that intuition to fight to breath. So if you give them every possibility to not have something to suffocate them and keep the air circulationg around them, you're chances are extremely rare of dying from sids.
And allowing to sleep on their tummy helps them be physically and mentally more advanced than back sleepers...tummy sleepers crawl and walk before back sleepers, and meet most cognitive developments way faster then back sleepers.



answers from Sacramento on

She may have reflux if she's not sleeping without being on an incline. My ODD had reflux. She would go to sleep on her back but she didn't stay asleep. As soon as she got to a light sleep stage (about 45 min for naps, a bit longer at nighttime) she'd wake up screaming. One night I put her down to sleep and she woke up 10 min later screaming. I nursed her back down to sleep and the exact same thing happened. So I got her car seat and put her in it and she slept great.
Since I was also nervous about using the car seat long term, I purchased a Tucker Sling ( It's a kind of harness/sling that you can attach to a foam wedge so that the baby is held at an incline even while sleeping.
They aren't cheap, so if you don't need one I wouldn't get one, but if you determine that your LO has reflux and it's being laid flat that's a problem, as opposed to lying on her back, a Tucker Sling could be the answer.


answers from Los Angeles on

swaddle her & cuddle her till she sleeps, worked for us :) you can buy swaddles with fasteners (velcro) wrapped up they look like a baby burrito

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