baby can't sleep on back

The Ultimate Guide to Encouraging Your Baby to Sleep on Their Back for Optimal Health and Safety

Why is it important for babies to sleep on their backs?

Sleeping on their backs, also known as the supine position, is the safest sleeping position for babies. This position helps reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is the leading cause of death in infants between 1 month and 1 year of age. When babies sleep on their backs, it allows for better air circulation and reduces the likelihood of them rebreathing their own exhaled breath. Additionally, sleeping on their backs helps prevent overheating, which is another risk factor for SIDS.

By following the recommendation to place babies on their backs to sleep, parents can significantly reduce the risk of SIDS and provide a safe sleeping environment. It’s important to note that once a baby can roll over independently from back to front and front to back, they can be allowed to find their own comfortable sleeping position during naps and nighttime sleep.

At what age should a baby start sleeping on their back?

Babies should start sleeping on their backs from birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be placed on their backs for every sleep until they are able to roll over independently, which typically occurs around 4-6 months of age. It’s crucial to establish this safe sleeping practice right from the beginning to reduce the risk of SIDS.


Parents should ensure that all caregivers, including grandparents and babysitters, are aware of this recommendation and follow it consistently. By creating a safe sleep environment and placing babies on their backs from day one, parents can help protect their little ones during sleep time.

Are there any risks associated with babies not sleeping on their backs?

Yes, there are risks associated with babies not sleeping on their backs. The most significant risk is an increased likelihood of SIDS. Studies have shown that babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides have a higher risk of SIDS compared to those who sleep on their backs. Sleeping in positions other than on the back can lead to restricted airflow and an increased chance of rebreathing exhaled breath, which can be dangerous for infants.

It’s important to note that certain medical conditions may require babies to sleep in alternative positions as advised by a healthcare professional. However, for healthy infants without specific medical needs, sleeping on the back is the safest position and should be followed consistently.

What are some common reasons why a baby may refuse to sleep on their back?

Babies may refuse to sleep on their backs due to various reasons, including discomfort, reflux, or a preference for being held. Some common reasons why a baby may resist sleeping on their back include:


  • The mattress or bedding may not be comfortable enough for the baby.
  • The room temperature might be too hot or too cold.


  • Babies with gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) may find it more comfortable to sleep in an inclined position rather than flat on their backs.

Preference for being held:

  • Babies who are used to being held or rocked to sleep may resist lying down on their backs alone.
  • They might prefer the feeling of closeness and security provided by being held.

How can parents encourage their baby to sleep on their back if they’re refusing?

If a baby is refusing to sleep on their back, parents can try the following strategies to encourage this safe sleeping position:

Create a comfortable sleep environment:

  • Ensure that the crib or bassinet is cozy and inviting.
  • Use a firm mattress with fitted sheets.
  • Keep the room at a comfortable temperature, neither too hot nor too cold.

Establish a consistent bedtime routine:

  • A soothing bedtime routine can help signal to the baby that it’s time to sleep.
  • Incorporate activities such as gentle rocking, singing lullabies, or reading stories to create a calming atmosphere.

Gradual transition:

  • If the baby is used to being held or rocked to sleep, gradually transition them to lying down on their back while still providing comfort and reassurance.
  • Start by holding the baby until they are drowsy and then gently place them in their crib on their back.

Are there any alternative safe sleeping positions for babies who refuse to sleep on their back?

If a baby consistently refuses to sleep on their back despite efforts to encourage this position, it’s important for parents to consult with their pediatrician. In some cases, alternative safe sleeping positions may be recommended based on the baby’s specific needs or medical conditions. These alternative positions might include:

Sleeping on the side (with precautions):

In certain situations, a healthcare professional may advise allowing the baby to sleep on their side. However, it’s crucial to follow specific guidelines and take precautions when using this position. Placing a rolled-up towel behind the baby’s back can provide support and help prevent rolling onto the stomach. It’s important to regularly check on the baby and ensure they remain in a safe position.

Inclined sleeping:

If a baby has reflux or other medical conditions that require an inclined position, a healthcare professional may recommend using an inclined sleeper or placing a wedge under the crib mattress to elevate the head slightly. It’s essential to follow the specific instructions provided by the healthcare professional and ensure that the incline is safe and appropriate for the baby.

Can swaddling help in getting a baby to sleep on their back?

Yes, swaddling can be helpful in getting a baby to sleep on their back. Swaddling involves wrapping the baby snugly in a blanket, mimicking the feeling of being held and providing a sense of security. This technique can help calm babies and promote better sleep.

When swaddling, it’s important to ensure that the blanket is not too tight and allows for proper hip movement. The swaddle should cover the baby’s chest but leave room for their legs to bend at the hips. Swaddling should be discontinued once the baby shows signs of rolling over independently or if they are no longer content being swaddled.

Is it normal for a baby to initially resist sleeping on their back but eventually adjust to it?

Yes, it is normal for babies to initially resist sleeping on their backs but eventually adjust to this position with time and consistent practice. Babies may need some time to get used to new sleeping positions, especially if they were accustomed to being held or rocked before sleep. By following safe sleep practices consistently and providing comfort and reassurance, most babies will gradually become more comfortable with sleeping on their backs.

It’s important for parents not to give up too quickly if their baby resists sleeping on their back initially. With patience and persistence, babies can learn to associate the supine position with sleep and eventually adjust to it.

Are there any specific techniques or strategies that can be used to help a baby become comfortable with sleeping on their back?

Yes, there are specific techniques and strategies that can help babies become more comfortable with sleeping on their backs:

Gentle rocking or swaying:

Before placing the baby in their crib, parents can try gently rocking or swaying them while they are lying on their back. This motion can help soothe the baby and make them more receptive to the new sleeping position.

White noise or calming sounds:

Using white noise machines or playing calming sounds, such as soft lullabies or nature sounds, can create a soothing environment for the baby. These sounds can help drown out any external noises and promote relaxation during sleep.


Offering a pacifier to the baby before placing them on their back can provide additional comfort and may help them settle into sleep more easily. However, if breastfeeding, it’s important to wait until breastfeeding is well-established before introducing a pacifier.

Gradual transition:

If a baby is used to being held or rocked to sleep, gradually transitioning them to lying down on their back can be helpful. Start by holding the baby until they are drowsy and then gently place them in their crib on their back. Over time, increase the duration of time spent in the crib until they are comfortable falling asleep independently.

What are the potential long-term consequences of consistently allowing a baby to sleep in positions other than on their back?

Consistently allowing a baby to sleep in positions other than on their back can increase the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related incidents. Sleeping on the stomach or side can lead to restricted airflow, increased chances of rebreathing exhaled breath, and higher body temperatures, all of which are risk factors for SIDS.

Additionally, consistently sleeping in positions other than on the back may affect the development of motor skills. Babies who spend most of their sleep time in positions that restrict movement may have delayed development in areas such as rolling over, sitting up, and crawling.

To ensure the safety and optimal development of a baby, it is important to follow the recommendation to place them on their backs to sleep until they are able to roll over independently.

In conclusion, it is not uncommon for babies to resist sleeping on their backs. However, it is important for parents to prioritize their baby’s safety and follow the recommended guidelines to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Why does my baby not like sleeping on his back?

According to Dr. Deena Blanchard, a pediatrician at Premier Pediatrics NY, a lot of babies do not prefer sleeping on their backs. This is because they can easily get startled in that position and babies with reflux may not feel as comfortable. In general, most babies tend to sleep better on their stomach.

Why does my baby cry when I lay him on his back?

If your child cries or shows discomfort by arching their back while lying down, it could indicate they have reflux. Reflux, also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid moves up into the baby’s throat. This can cause pain and a burning sensation, so it’s important to consult with your pediatrician about this condition.

Why does my baby sleep better on stomach?

Many infants tend to gravitate towards sleeping on their stomachs, possibly because it makes them feel secure and cuddled, similar to how they felt in the womb. However, with consistent practice, most babies can adjust to sleeping on their backs.

What is Sandifer syndrome?

Sandifer syndrome (SS) is a specific type of movement disorder characterized by sudden spasms in the head, neck, and back, while the limbs remain unaffected. It is frequently observed in children and is often linked to gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).

Is it OK if baby sleeps on side?

Sleeping on the side or stomach can pose risks of injury, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or suffocation. It is recommended that all infants are placed on their backs for sleep, whether it is bedtime or nap time. If a baby under 1 year old rolls onto their side or stomach during sleep, they should be gently moved back onto their back.

How can I get my baby to sleep on his back?

Gently rocking your baby in your arms can help them feel sleepy and make it easier for them to sleep on their back. You can try standing or walking around the room while rocking your baby, or if you have a rocking chair or glider, you can also rock them while sitting down.

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