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It’s exciting — and a little frightening! — to see your child become mobile. The first time they flip over is a moment you (and your camera phone!) won’t want to miss.
It’s certainly fun to have your baby show their new skill off for grandparents or friends, but it can quickly become a lot less fun when they start practicing flipping over in their crib. When your little one wakes themselves up trying to roll their body into a different position night after night and nap after nap, you may find yourself rethinking your initial excitement.
But once baby can roll over, it’s actually considered safe for them to do so — even in their crib, and even during nap or night time — as long as you take certain precautions. Let’s take a closer look so you can stop losing sleep over this new milestone.
As your little one learns that they have control over how their body moves, they’re naturally going to start moving more. A crib or playpen can provide a perfect space to practice moving around, and your baby will likely want to take advantage of any chance they have to rehearse their newest skill!
As for why it happens during naps and at night, it’s often pretty similar to why adults change positions while sleeping, too — to get comfortable. After your baby falls asleep they may still find themselves rolling around and waking up because they’re in an uncomfortable position.
It’s true that once your baby starts rolling, it’s no longer safe to swaddle them. Swaddling restricts your child’s ability to use their arms to get into a different position. Because of this, a rolling baby might end up in a position that restricts their breathing and then be unable to get out of it.
Additionally, all of the pulling and tugging your baby may do to try to flip can loosen a blanket or swaddle, also resulting in a potential suffocation hazard. Instead of a swaddle, consider a sleep sack with open arms once your child is rolling around.
So is it OK for baby to roll around as long as they’re not swaddled? The short answer is yes, as long as you take a couple additional steps to ensure their safety.
Once your little one is on the move, it’s extremely important to keep their sleeping space free of pillows, blankets, or any other objects/suffocation hazards. (Once your child is rolling, the whole area is fair game, so the entire sleeping space should be free of risks.)
Their crib sheet should be tight and flat, and your baby should always be laid on their back to go to sleep. But it’s OK if they don’t stay that way.
If your child rolls and gets stuck on their stomach while awake, the most effective solution is typically to just flip them back onto their back. Because getting stuck on their stomach usually only persists for a few weeks while your child masters rolling both ways, many parents are willing to flip their little one over as a temporary solution to this phase.
Always place your baby to sleep on their back to decrease the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But it’s OK for infants to sleep on their stomach or side once they’re able to flip themselves over to that position themselves.
So if your child is able to flip onto their stomach and seems to enjoy sleeping that way, you can let them continue sleeping in that position.
While some babies are perfectly content to sleep on their stomach once they roll over, others find themselves wide awake — and not happy!
Much like a baby that gets stuck on their stomach, because this phase usually only lasts for a few weeks, the simplest solution may be to flip your baby back onto their back and use a pacifier or some shushing noises to help them fall back to sleep.
Of course, if this is too disruptive to baby’s — or your — shut-eye, you may want to try preventing the situation in the first place. There are some products on the market like the Tranquilo Safe Sleep Swaddle Blanket (which is not actually a swaddle!) and the Swanling Slumber Sleeper designed to prevent your baby from rolling — and keep them fast asleep on their back.
Of course, before using any product, it’s important to research if it’s safe and in line with SIDS prevention recommendations.
While some little ones will wake up midsleep from rolling around their crib, others will keep themselves up by rolling around and never want to fall asleep.
It’s only natural for the novelty of their new skill to keep them awake for a while, but it will wear off in time — we promise. (It may be necessary to tolerate a few short/missed naps in the meantime, but take heart!)
Allowing your child plenty of opportunity to practice rolling around during non-napping times can help tire them out, aid them in mastering their new skill, and take a little bit of the excitement out of pre-sleep rolling practice.
SIDS prevention recommendations are very clear that for the first year of life, babies should only be placed on their back to sleep. If your child manages to navigate naturally into a position they find comfortable after being placed to sleep on their back, most doctors will be OK with them remaining in that position to sleep. But it’s not recommended to place your child to sleep on their stomach or side.
Parenthood in this first year is all about doing what you can to keep baby happy and healthy. It’s totally understandable that you may be cradling your little one in your arms face-down when they fall asleep. (Many babies love this position or a similar one in your lap.) But when you move your child to their crib — hopefully while they’re still sleepy — place them on their back.
The novelty of rolling over in the crib usually fades quickly, and chances are your little one will stop disrupting their sleep with this new skill in just a few days. Sleep problems as a result of this new milestone are typically short lived and will quickly resolve.
Remembering that this usually only lasts for a few days or weeks can help you keep your sanity when your baby starts rolling over in their sleep. A large cup of coffee or a massage can help you get through this time, too!