Why babies shouldn’t sleep on their sides: how to reduce the risk of SIDS

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Young mum putting her baby down to sleep

Parents are often worried about whether it’s safe for their baby to sleep on their side, especially when they learn to roll on their own.

Babies are safer sleeping on their backs, as sleeping them on their front or side can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 

The most important things to remember are:

  • Babies should be slept on their backs for every single sleep.
  • This applies for day and nighttime sleeps.
  • When your baby has learnt to roll from back to front and back again, on their own, they can be left to find their own position but should always start their sleep on their back.

Placing your baby on their back for every single sleep is important, as the chance of SIDS is particularly high for babies who are sometimes placed on their front or side.

Baby sleeping on her back

Babies should always be put down to sleep on their backs, for day and nighttime sleeps

The first few times they roll onto their tummy, you might like to gently turn them back, but do not feel you have to get up all night to check.

While your baby is awake

Give them some time to play on their tummy while they are awake to help their development, but make sure you supervise them while they are on their front.

Sleeping babies on their side: frequently asked questions

Is a baby sleeping on their back more likely to choke on their own vomit?

No research has found this to be the case, and we now know that babies are far safer sleeping on their backs.

Find out more in this video by young mums Sharna, Ellie, Loren, Richelle and Jayde:

My mum says I was slept on my front and that was the advice then, why has it changed?

Many parents reading this factsheet will have been slept on their tummies as babies, as that was the advice before 1991.

However, research has since shown that the chance of SIDS is much higher when a baby is placed on their front to sleep, and the rate of SIDS has gone down by 85% since the advice was changed, so we know this is the safest thing to do.

My baby loves sleeping on his front — how do we change to his back without him waking up?

Once your baby has tried sleeping on their front, they might prefer this. Unfortunately, it’s not safe.

To encourage your baby to sleep on their back, always put them down to sleep while they’re awake rather than allowing them to fall asleep in your arms.

Keep going — they will eventually get used to it!

Young mum putting her baby down to sleep

To encourage your baby to sleep on their back, always put them down to sleep while they’re awake

Is sleeping a baby on their front better for babies with reflux?

You should not sleep your baby on their front unless you have been advised to do so by a medical professional.

If your baby has reflux, or any other on-going health condition, speak to your doctor about the best care for them.

Will a sleep positioner help keep my baby on their back to sleep?

There is no need to use any type of equipment or rolled up blankets to keep your baby in one position unless you have been advised by a health professional for a specific medical condition.

It is much safer for your baby to be in their cot with just the sheets or blankets, and no extras which could be pulled over their face or cause an accident.

As babies grow stronger they learn to move and roll and this is fine.

More safer sleep for babies advice

Find out more about safer sleep for babies on our advice pages:

The Lullaby Trust, 11 Belgrave Road, London SW1V 1RB Registered Charity Number: 262191. Registered Company Number 01000824

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