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Safe Sleep: Baby Sleeping On Side or Stomach

Safe Sleep: Baby Sleeping On Side or Stomach

You’ve seen the signs...she is getting stronger and pushing her boundaries. You fear that one day you will walk to her crib to find your baby sleeping on her side or her belly. With all the warnings moms hear about ‘back is safest’, the thought of your baby sleeping on her side or stomach can be a little nerve wracking. So how do you prepare for the inevitable? In this guide to safe side and stomach sleeping, you’ll learn:

Is it safe for babies to sleep on their side? 
How can I prevent my baby from sleeping on their side?
What if my baby rolls to her side or stomach during sleep?
When is it okay to let my baby sleep on their side? 
When do babies start rolling over?

Is it safe for babies to sleep on their side?

You probably already knew that you’re never supposed to put your baby to sleep on their stomach. The safest way for your baby to sleep is on their back because it’s the best way to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). So can newborns sleep on their side? Babies who sleep on their side fall into a bit of a “grey area” that most parents aren’t familiar with until they experience it first hand! Parents may find that their baby seems to sleep better on their side instead of their back or rolls onto their side in their sleep.

From the experts

“The side position is not considered a safe alternative to sleeping wholly on the back. Studies have found that the side sleep position is unstable and increases the chance that infants will roll onto their stomachs - the sleep position associated with the highest SIDS risk. The AAP Task Force recommends that infants be placed wholly on their backs to sleep - for naps and at night. 

- Infant Sleep Position and SIDS, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Until your baby is able to roll from back to front and back again completely independently, it is not safe to let them sleep on their side. All authorities generally agree the safest way for babies to sleep is on their back.

The Zen Sack keeps up with your growing baby. Wear it frontwards for back sleepers or backwards once baby learns how to roll.

Check it out

A baby that sleeps on their side (who can't roll over independently) is more likely to get into a compromising or dangerous position while sleeping that they are unable to get themselves out of. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does mention that there are some conditions that might require you to place your baby on their side to sleep. However, unless you’ve consulted your doctor and they have instructed you to position your baby on their side to sleep for a medical reason, you should always put your baby on their back to sleep.

How can I Prevent my Baby from Sleeping on Their Side?

The best way to prevent your baby from sleeping on their side is to place them in the crib on their back. Typically newborns will stay in the position you place them in since they are not yet strong enough to move themselves.

So what if your baby prefers to sleep on their side, before they’re able to roll? We understand this can be tough. Some babies do seem to like sleeping on their side better than their back. If this is the case, the first thing you should try is helping them adjust to sleeping on their backs comfortably. This adjustment might take a few nights to get used to if you’ve previously been placing them to sleep on their side. If they’re fussy when you place them on their back, swaddling might help them adjust, and is completely safe when done correctly.

From the experts

“It is fine to swaddle your baby. However, make sure that the baby is always on his or her back when swaddled. The swaddle should not be too tight or make it hard for the baby to breathe or move his or her hips. When your baby looks like he or she is trying to roll over, you should stop swaddling."

Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP, The American Academy of Pediatrics

Swaddling mimics the warmth and snugness of the womb and can help to calm your fussy baby. We recommend using the Zen Swaddle® because it's hip healthy and gently weighted to help keep your baby calmer during sleep. The Zen Swaddle® has been shown to improve babies’ sleep, and can be used with arms out once your baby starts learning to roll!

Sweeter Sleep Story

This has been the best thing we have bought for our littler guy. Before we bought the [Zen] Swaddle, I was not able to lay him in his bassinet to sleep...the night we got it and tried it he was so fussyThe moment we put it on him, he fell asleep almost immediately. Now he sleeps between 4-7 hour stretches when he wears it. We love it!"

- Michelle Y., 5/2/2018

How the Zen Swaddle works  

If your baby will still not sleep on their backs, even when swaddled, consult your doctor for their advice. Perhaps there’s another factor causing your baby’s discomfort. If you’re dealing with a baby who starts off sleeping on their back, but rolls onto their side while sleeping, continue reading to learn when to expect the rolling over milestone and how to keep your baby safe during sleep!

What do I do if my baby rolls to her side or stomach in her sleep?

As a newborn, your baby most likely stayed in the position you put them in while sleeping. But once they hit that 3 to 4 month mark and start working on their rolling skills, you might find that your baby starts sleeping on their back, but rolls to their side or stomach while sleeping. This transition can be a scary one for parents, because it's when their baby is most vulnerable. To keep them as safe as possible during sleep, follow the these safe sleep practices:

1: Keep the crib clear (Click ↓)  
2: Start to transition out of swaddling (Click ↓)  
3: Don't use baby sleep positioners or wedges (Click ↓)  
4: Always place baby on their back (Click ↓)  
5: Make time for tummy time (Click ↓)  


The Zen Sack™ can help your baby spend more time on their backs because of it's gently weighted center. Not only will your baby be comfortable and safe, but you'll have some piece of mind too - just take it from Zen Mom Michelle:


The Zen Sack is safe for side and tummy sleepers, with a gently weighted center to help them sleep

Try the Zen Sack

When is it okay to let my baby sleep on their side?

Your baby must know how to roll completely over (from back to tummy and back again) independently before they are safe to sleep on their side. Once they are able to complete a full roll on their own, it indicates they are strong enough to alter their position if they are not getting enough oxygen, making it safe for them to be sleeping on their side or stomach.

From the experts

“Some babies will roll onto their stomachs. You should always place your baby to sleep on their back, but if your baby is comfortable rolling both ways (back to tummy, tummy to back), then you do not have to return your baby to the back. However, be sure that there are no blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, or bumper pads around your baby, so that your baby does not roll into any of those items, which could cause blockage of airflow."

- Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP, The American Academy of Pediatrics

In fact, once your baby surpasses the rolling-over milestone, they may prefer to sleep on their side or stomach - and it’s finally safe to let them! It is important to note, however, that swaddling is no longer safe once your baby is learning to roll over. This is the right time to transition to a sleeping bag. Its roomy sack allows those little feet to push themselves in order to safely roll over back and forth with no restrictions.

The Nested Bean sleeping bag, Zen Sack™ is an ideal swaddle transition product with a lot of extra room at the bottom for this stage of active sleeping. In addition, it's lightly weighted center applies gentle pressure on baby's chest to mimics the comfort of a parent's soothing palm. When your baby starts rolling over and settles on her tummy, it can be worn with the weight on their backs instead of their chest.

Sweeter Sleep Story

“From the moment he could roll he would instantly roll from his back to his tummy when we put him to sleep. So we had to stop swaddling cold turkey! Purchased this [Zen] sack to help ease the transition and it's a godsend! This [Zen Sack] definitely keeps him cozy at night, the light pressure from the beans I believe helps...and I love that it can be worn backwards for my tummy sleeper!"

- Amazon Customer, 2/27/2018

Get a Zen Sack  

Many parents are concerned about their baby rolling to their tummy in the Zen Sack™ on their own. It is perfectly safe for your baby to sleep on top of the weighted part of the Zen Sack™, if they happen to roll to their tummy during sleep. The weight is light and flexible enough to not obstruct your baby. 

When do babies start rolling over?

Most babies learn to roll over somewhere between 5 and 6 months old. Some babies learn to roll over as early as 3 or 4 months, while others will be 7 months old before they master the art of rolling over. But typically, babies start to learn to roll over around 5 months and are rolling pros by 6 or 7 months.

Your baby will learn pretty quickly that this newly learned trick is actually great. Since your baby isn’t at the crawling stage yet, rolling might become her new form of transportation. She’ll start rolling to move closer to you, a toy she wants to grab, or a place she wants to explore.

However, before your baby is rolling all around the house, you can expect there to be some time between the first time your baby rolls from their stomach to their back, and the first time they roll from their back to their tummy again. These smaller milestones lead to the big one – a full roll. It takes a lot more strength, coordination, and practice for your baby to get from their back to their tummy than it does to roll from tummy to back. It might take a few weeks or more than a month before your little one can roll both ways.

Keep in mind that every baby is different! It’s completely normal if your baby learns to roll over a little before, or even a little after the usual age range. Once they learn to flip onto their backs, it’ll probably take another month for them to learn how to roll back onto their stomachs, since this takes more strength and coordination. And remember that your baby should still be sleeping on their backs until they can independently roll over and back again to prevent an increased risk of (SIDS).


1. You should always place your baby on their back to sleep

2. Slide sleeping is not safe until your baby learns to roll over on their own

3. Swaddling might help your baby sleep better

4. Most babies starting learning to roll over around 3 to 4 months old

5. Once your baby can roll over independently, it’s safe to let them sleep on their side or stomach

6. When your baby is learning to roll over, you should transition out of swaddling

7. You should not use baby sleep positioners or wedges

8. Always keep the crib clear of loose bedding or blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, etc.

Christina Alario

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  • My baby was such a great sleeper the first 2 months. But once he turned 3 & 4 months old, he was waking every 2-3 hrs, if not sooner. I tried every sleep sack imaginable. I came across the zen sack and was so hesitant about ordering it. I read all the reviews & just knew that I wouldn’t get the same results. Day 2 of the zen sack & he slept NINE straight HOURS. I was so amazed. Now I can’t even imagine him sleeping without it. However, I do believe that the zen sack along with sleep training is what helped him so much! I’ll definitely be ordering another one!!!

    Torrie on

  • It’s been 5 days and my baby’s sleeping has improved so much! Last night he went down at 7pm and didn’t wake up until 5am! Before he was waking several times during the night. So glad I decided to try this!

    Shannon Ziegelmeier on

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