Has your baby started rolling onto their front in their sleep? Does this feel quite distressing as babies are supposed to sleep on their back? Firstly, babies rolling onto their front from a certain age is completely normal. Babies – and adults! – often like to sleep on their front, and find this much more comfortable, once they are capable of rolling back and forth.
This usually begins with some rolling in the day. We get excited seeing our babies become more mobile and what mischief they are going to get up to! However, that excitement can soon turn to distress and concern when they start rolling onto their front at night for sleep. We are told from the moment our baby is born – maybe even before then – that they should sleep on their back to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and rightly so. According to The Lullaby Trust, once your baby can move themselves from their back to their front and back again by themselves, they will be able to find their own sleeping position.
At what age DO BABIES START ROLLING ONTO THEIR FRONT?
This typically happens any time around 4-6 months depending on your baby’s development. Though, as we know with babies, they all develop at different rates so it may be a little later than 6 months. Unfortunately, it often happens around the same time as your baby’s 4 month sleep regression which can prove challenging enough for their sleep without throwing the rolling conundrum into the mix. Babies will likely start rolling in the day initially, but when better to practice new skills than at night and you will often see these skills being honed when you least want them to. As if us parents didn’t have enough to worry about!
WHY DO THEY START ROLLING ONTO THEIR FRONT IN THEIR SLEEP?
Simply put, comfort. Babies often feel more comfortable lying on their front, and I’ve seen many babies lying on their front with their bum perked up high in the air! They will also do it as part of getting comfortable and into their favourite position before going to sleep, just as us adults will move around before and during sleep getting into a position we feel most relaxed in.
IS IT SAFE FOR BABIES TO ROLL ONTO THEIR FRONT?
Firstly, it’s important to say that when babies are able to roll onto their front, you should stop swaddling them as swaddling restricts their arm movements and therefore, their ability to get out of certain positions.
So what should your baby sleep in now if they have been swaddling? Lots of families use blankets, but we’ve always preferred sleeping bags as they stay on the baby even when the baby becomes mobile. Just remember to always choose your baby’s sleeping bag based on weight rather than size/age.
It’s also important to ensure your baby’s cot is empty, and free from suffocation hazards such as toys, bumpers or teddy bears. Also, when choosing the right mattress for your baby’s cot, always make sure the mattress fits tightly in the cot so that there are no gaps around the edges.
WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN MY BABY ROLLS ON THEIR FRONT FOR SLEEP?
At first, it’s likely you will know when this happens as they will probably cry out as babies often become upset when they first roll onto their front as they don’t like it to begin with. When this happens, it’s best to gently roll them back so they can be comfortable and content again. I remember when my eldest son Teddy began rolling onto his front, and my wife Dani and I spent that week totally sleep deprived as we were constantly checking on him and rolling him back. It was stressful!
The best bit of I can give to any parent is to really focus on practicing tummy time in the day to help strengthen your baby’s neck muscles so that they find it easier to move more freely and move back to front, and back again. Just make sure you supervise them while they are on their front in the day. Once they become more comfortable on their front, you will also become more comfortable with it happening, and any anxiety should reduce. If it doesn’t get easier and you are all struggling with getting some sleep, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
I’m a baby and toddler sleep consultant specialising in designing gentle sleep training programmes for babies and toddlers. I work with clients on a one to one basis and I also have a series of age-specific online courses for you to implement at your own pace.