In short, the answer is NO! Tummy time is NOT safe for infants. You should encourage your baby to sleep on their back instead. Placing your baby on their tummy is an absolute NO-NO and if your baby likes to sleep on their tummy, you need to change that. It is safe for them to lie on their tummy only after they complete their first year of life.
Sleeping on the tummy is not to be confused with tummy time. Tummy time plays a very important role in your baby’s development. It is the process of laying your baby on their tummy for a few minutes. It enables them to experiment by flailing their hands about, then lift their head up (once their neck muscles are strong enough) and eventually to roll over.
Although this is important, newborn babies should not be left on their tummy for more than a minute. In case they struggle, turn them over again. You can increase this to 3 minutes after a week and then gradually to 20 minutes when they are 3-4 months old. It can be done during their play time, after a diaper change or once they are awake.
Risks Of Baby Sleeping On Tummy
Now, although tummy time is safe and important, SLEEPING on the tummy is dangerous. For us adults, it is fine to sleep on our stomach but babies are still developing and thus tummy time can prove to be a potential risk for them. Here are a few risks of putting your baby to sleep on their tummy:
1. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
The exact cause of SIDS is not known but by making your baby sleep on their tummy, you are putting your baby at risk. This is especially so in case of babies under 4 months of age but babies continue to be at risk of SIDS until the 12th month.
2. Breathing difficulties
When an infant sleeps on their tummy, they may find it hard to breathe. This is especially dangerous at night because one minute you think they are fine sleeping on their tummy and the next minute they are out of breath.
3. Digestion problems
If your baby JUST ate, your baby is probably going to spit up by lying on their tummy. Parents often put their baby to bed after feeding them at night so this can happen.
What To Do If Your Baby Likes Sleeping On The Tummy
Now, even if we know the risks involved in placing your baby on their tummy while they are asleep, there are some babies who seem to prefer sleeping on their tiny tummies. So how do you get them to start sleeping on their back instead? This can be tricky especially if they throw a fuss.
1. Turn them over onto their backs if you see them lying on their tummy. Wait a few minutes.
2. If they try to turn back over, turn them onto their back again.
3. If they make a fuss, ignore it and keep repeating 1-2
4. They should not lie on their sides either so if you see them rolling over to the side, straighten them up.
5. You can try swaddling your baby up and placing them down in their crib.
6. They are less likely to turn over if they are swaddled up.
7. Eventually, they will get accustomed to sleeping on their back.