What do I do if my baby rolls onto their front in the cot?

7 Feb 2022

Has your baby started rolling onto their front in their sleep? Are you feeling slightly stressed and concerned by this rolling? Let’s start by saying rolling to their front is completely natural for babies – they often want to sleep on their front once they are old enough to roll themselves.

It also starts with some rolling in the day. We get excited seeing our babies become more mobile, despite the obvious emotion of watching them get bigger and bigger, and no longer that newborn you brought home just a few short months before. However, that excitement can soon turn to distress and concern when they start rolling onto their front at night for sleep. We are so ingrained as parents to know that our babies 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.

When do babies start rolling onto their front at night?

This typically happens between 4-6 months depending on your baby’s physical development. Unfortunately, it often coincides with your baby’s 4 month sleep regression which can prove challenging enough for everyone’s sleep. They will likely start doing this in the day initially, but once babies learn to do something, they like to practice their new skill! And when better for them to practice than at night. As if us parents didn’t have enough to worry about!

Why do they start rolling onto their front in their sleep?

After the initial desire to practice their new skill, babies will roll onto their front as they like to get comfortable for sleep, just as us adults move around to get our favourite position before going to sleep. They may find that they feel more comfortable lying on their tummy once they are ready to do so, and I’ve seen many babies lying on their front with their bum perked up high in the air!

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Is it safe for babies to roll onto their front?

When babies are able to roll it is no longer safe to swaddle them as swaddling restricts your little one’s ability to use their arms to move around or get out of a position.

If you have been swaddling your baby previously, then what should a baby sleep in? Whilst many families use blankets, we prefer sleeping bags as they stay on the baby and we find sometimes the blanket can come away when they are mobile. When choosing the right sleeping bag for your child, make sure you select the size based on the baby’s weight rather than age.

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It’s also important to continue to keep the baby’s crib or cot free from any toys, teddies, bumpers and suffocation hazards, and that 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?

Initially babies often become upset when they first roll onto their front and it’s best to gently roll them back if this is the case so that they calm down. I remember when Teddy (my eldest) first started rolling onto his front, Dani and I spent that week awake constantly checking on him and rolling him back.

My advice is to keep practicing tummy time in the day to help strengthen their little bodies so it’s easier for them to roll back themselves. Just make sure you supervise them while they are on their front in the day. Once they become more comfortable with rolling onto their front and back, they should stop becoming upset by this happening and you can relax a little more as a parent. If it doesn’t get easier and your little one begins or continues to struggle with sleep, even after their extra mobility to get comfortable, 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.