Always place babies to sleep on the back from birth, day and night. Do this by sleeping the baby on the back and tucking in the bed clothes tightly or using a safe baby sleeping bag (a safe baby sleeping bag has fitted neck and arm holes, and no hood).
Most back-sleeping babies do not begin rolling onto the tummy by themselves until about five to six months of age although a few can roll from a younger age.
Babies who sleep on their back tend to roll onto their tummy later than side sleeping infants. This probably plays a part in why the back position is safer for babies as they do not roll into the high-risk tummy position during a vulnerable period of development. The delay in rolling is normal and does not affect the baby’s later development.
Steps to follow when babies start to roll on to the tummy
- It is essential to discontinue wrapping as soon as baby starts showing signs that they can begin to roll, usually between 4-6 months. If you wrap your baby, consider baby’s stage of development. Leave arms free once the startle reflex disappears around 3 months
- If you are using a bassinette it is time to transfer your baby into a cot as soon as they first show signs of being able to roll
- Give baby extra tummy time to play when awake and supervised as this helps baby to develop stronger neck and upper body muscles which in turn enables them to roll back over. It is best to start giving baby supervised tummy time from birth
- Consider using a safe baby sleeping bag as these may delay rolling over
- If you use a blanket, make sure that the baby’s feet are touching the bottom of the cot and the blanket can only reach baby’s chest to prevent baby wriggling under the blanket. Tuck the blanket in securely.
- Make sure that baby is on a firm and well-fitting mattress that is flat (not tilted or elevated).
- Make sure that baby’s face and head remains uncovered (do not use lambswool, doonas, pillows, cot bumpers or soft toys)
As babies grow and develop they become very active and learn to roll around the cot. At this time, continue to put them on the back at the start of sleep time, but let them find their own position of comfort. By this stage it is not necessary to wake during the night to turn baby over to the back position. The risk of sudden infant death in babies over six months is extremely low.
Do not use any devices designed to keep baby in a particular sleep position.
Remember to reduce the risks in other ways
- Put baby on the back to sleep from birth
- Sleep baby with head and face uncovered
- Keep baby smoke free before birth and after
- Sleep baby in a safe environment: Safe cot, safe mattress, safe bedding, safe environment.
- Sleep baby in its own cot or bassinette in the same room as the parents for the first 6-12 months
- Breastfeed baby
Last modified: 18/10/17