Why do babies lie on their back to sleep? baby lying on their back

Since the 1990s, evidence has shown that babies sleeping on their front is linked to a higher risk of SUDI (Sudden unexpected death in infancy). For decades now, new parents and caregivers have been encouraged to lie their baby on their back for every sleep – but why?

One reason why it is safer to lie a baby on their back is so they can breathe easily. By ensuring that a baby lies on their back for every sleep, day or night, this means their airways are naturally open and clear.

Did You Know? Unlike adults and older children, babies only breathe through their nose, rather than their nose and mouth, for the first 3-4 months of their life.

Remember: All a baby needs in their sleep space is a firm, flat mattress and their blanket (tucked around the mattress and no higher than baby’s armpits) or sleeping bag. Extra items like pillows, soft toys, or bumpers should be removed.

Baby’s will learn to roll onto their side and eventually all the way onto their tummy at some stage. Many babies will reach this milestone between 4 and 6 months of age. Babies will sometimes roll into one position and remain that way, unable to roll back. This is why a clear sleep space is important.

Accidental suffocation could occur if a baby sleeps on their side or front as their face could become pressed up against soft surfaces which could cover their nose and mouth. If when you check on your baby, you find they have rolled, gently move them onto their back again and continue to place them on their back for every sleep until they are 6 months of age. After 6 months of age, there is no need to re-position them if you find they have rolled, but you should continue to place them on their back for every sleep until they are 12 months of age.

The message from baby is to keep it CLEAR;

Clear my own firm, flat, sleep space and

Lie me on my back for

Every sleep, day or night.

Always make sure I am sleeping in the same room as you and

Remember to check for hazards that could pinch, block, or kink my airways too.

During this week on social media we’ll be focusing on several other messages and how they relate to baby’s breathing, so families feel informed and empowered to have discussions around safe sleep. A baby’s narrow airways can be blocked by items covering their nose/mouth, pinched by pressure on their chest, or kinked if they fall asleep in a seated position and their heavy head drops down to their chest. That it why it is so important to #KeepItCLEAR

Find out more about the ‘Back to Sleep’ message at