how can we stop our baby rolling in his sleep?
September 30, 2012 3:47 PM   Subscribe

How can we stop our 5 month old rolling on his stomach in his crib?

Our baby boy is 8 months old, but was born 3 months premature... so is about 5 months old for his "corrected age". He loves to roll over now, and since we are very worried about SIDS, especially since he is at higher risk being premature we've put rolled up towels under the sheets of his crib to keep him in place. Our pediatrician says we should definitely not let him sleep on his stomach till he is a year and a half!

Our current solution kinda works, but if he is really determined, he can end up more or less on his stomach, face in the mattress, arm hugging the towel at an uncomfortable looking angle. So I'm wondering how other parents do this?
posted by Admira to Health & Fitness (29 answers total)
Can he roll himself over both ways? I've always heard that once babies can do that, they are safe on their tummies. Any solution involving towels or posiioners or whatnot seems to introduce more safety problems than it solves, imo. The SIDS risk is much lower after 6 months, so if you are really concerned, just flip him over for the next few weeks.
posted by yarly at 3:54 PM on September 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

Try a Tucker Sling.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:00 PM on September 30, 2012

(Just remember to flip babe's head side to side to prevent a flat spot.)
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:02 PM on September 30, 2012

He can only flip one way, though he can flip back. Also if anyone has any advice that contradicts my pediatricians advice, if possible if you could provide links that would be nice, to show her to back it up.

I forgot to mention we did try this but he basically throws himself around till he's out of it (with much crying etc) and then is free completely.

posted by Admira at 4:24 PM on September 30, 2012

My infant with health issues just slept with me until he was 17 months old. I could not go to sleep if he wasn't in the crook of my arm because I was terrified he would stop breathing.

posted by Michele in California at 4:35 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

The "year and a half" thing is way outside the norm for sleeping on his back (anectodal evidence from our pediatrician and all of our friends; sorry- no links). I've mostly heard 6 months and, from incredibly paranoid folks, one year. As yarly said, the SIDS risk goes way down after 6 months. Baby Betelgeuse is 7.5 months old now and we gave up trying to force him to be on his back when he was ~5.5 months old; he just kept flipping over. I think there's a reason that most of the advice is phrased as, "always put him down on his back." As you've learned, it's a really losing battle to try to get them to stay on their back.

You could try swaddling him with, for example, a Miracle Blanket, but I suspect he may break right out of that (and maybe roll over anyway).
posted by Betelgeuse at 4:48 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have a sixth month old, and we were told to put the baby back to bed to sleep, but let her change positions as she liked. I didn't like seeing her on her tummy, but it's been every night for months and I'm almost used to it.
posted by gerryblog at 4:56 PM on September 30, 2012

The year and a half thing is crazy..... if a baby can roll over then he is strong enough to control his head and neck so the risk of SIDS is very small. He sounds like he is catching up to his true age quite nicely. Keep all blankets, stuffed animals, bumpers, etc. out of the crib and relax. Put him on his back and let him do his thing.....
posted by pearlybob at 5:05 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

My baby nephew would not sleep on his back for more than 10 or 20 minutes. He constantly woke up and cried. On his stomach, he slept soundly for hours so eventually we caved. He always slept in a room with someone else so we could keep an eye on him. There was a lot of checking to make sure he was breathing in beginning.
posted by shoesietart at 5:06 PM on September 30, 2012

If he's old enough to flip over there's not much you can do. Don't worry about it.
posted by Blake at 5:19 PM on September 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

When infants are developmentally capable of roll- ing comfortably from their backs to their fronts and back again, there is no evidence to suggest that they should be re-positioned into the supine position.
Safe Sleep Practices and SIDS/Suffocation Risk Reduction. A Joint Collaborative Project of American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education.

Since this is a serious matter you might want to consult with another pediatrician rather than trusting random people from the Internet, but I agree with others who think you Pediatrician is way outside the norm.
posted by alms at 5:29 PM on September 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Is this a developmental pediatrician or a general pediatrician? If it's the latter, you might consider consulting with the dev. pediatrician and asking about this. In terms of this little one, I'd think the risk posed by rolling his face into the towels in his crib would be more of a concern than his rolling onto his stomach.
posted by goggie at 5:35 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Our doc is a pediatrician specializing in premature babies, but we also have a separate developmental specialist so great idea to ask him!
posted by Admira at 5:38 PM on September 30, 2012

Our pediatrician told us at our six month appointment with both children that while she couldn't officially recommend letting a baby under one sleep on his stomach, as a parent and reasonable person she would never flip over a sleeping baby who was able to roll both ways.

This is again, anecdotal, and I think the suggestion of a second opinion is a great one. The towels seem like much more of a hazard to me than stomach sleeping, but who knows...
posted by robinpME at 5:39 PM on September 30, 2012

Okay, I just thought about this a little bit more. A year and a half is a toddler. I have a nineteen month daughter and she can almost climb out of her crib. There is no way short of strong narcotics or physical restraints that we could force her to sleep on her back. There's a much greater chance of her climbing out of her crib than there is of her sleeping on her back.

There's got to be some misunderstanding here. You just can't force a toddler to sleep on their back. It's not going to happen. If anything, cluttering up the crib with bolsters and wedges is going to create more of a hazard.
posted by alms at 5:50 PM on September 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yeah, my pedi always said once they are old enough to flip themselves over, they can sleep on their stomachs.
posted by katers890 at 6:01 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I cannot envision how you would even prevent a twelve-month-old from turning over. I have a nine-month-old, and there isn't a damned thing that I could do to stop him from turning onto his stomach, short of tying his arms and legs to the side of his crib.
posted by waldo at 6:05 PM on September 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sleep positioners like towels and wedges are considered a suffocation risk (link to cpsc).

Does he have something like apnea to warrant the extra caution? Our 30week premie was allowed to sleep like a regular baby once she could turn on her own. There's little to stop them from flipping over if they feel like it once they have that skill.

I would get a hard crib mattress and make sure there's nothing else in the crib. Maybe put him in a sleep-gro sack so you don't need blankets even. That way if he's on his stomach, he will have breathing space between his mouth and the mattress. If you lean in close when they're on their stomachs, you can see that they normally tilt their heads a little so they can breathe.

I wanted to add that last night, she turning around and crawling in the bed, sleeping on her stomach and I kept waking up to try sleepily to flip her back over because I am still paranoid about SIDS and suffocation. When I'm awake, I'm rational and calm about it because she's healthy, the bed has been cleared for her, but when I'm half-asleep, I go back to "must flip baby, oh god is she breathing" panic. So this may just be something you have to accept is part of being a worried preemie parent.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:08 PM on September 30, 2012

Community health nurses here assured me that, once your baby starts rolling, there's nothing you can really do, unless you want to interfere with their mobility in the crib. And interfering with their mobility increases the SIDS risk. So they said you are best to just let your baby roll over. They said the baby is unlikely to suffocate if you aren't using loose blankets and crib bumpers and pillows - and a baby strong enough to roll over should have the muscle tone to lift their head. Yes, sleeping on the stomach increases SIDS risk, but so does strapping them in and so on, as noted earlier in my post.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 6:22 PM on September 30, 2012

I'd get a second doctor opinion. My pede also said once they can roll over, keep putting them down on their backs but don't worry about them rolling themselves over.

They do make SIDS monitors that are basically motion-sensing pads that go under the baby, can sense the small motion of breathing, and set off an alarm if there's no motion for 20 seconds or whatever. I understand they're prone to false positives and I've read doctors don't recommend them because there's no evidence they can help reduce the incidence of SIDS (like, the alarm will go off, but there's not really anything to do about it), but it's possible having an alarm would help calm your fears about him rolling on his stomach in the night, even if you suffer a few false alarms. Probably in a month or two your little guy will be a robust roller in all possible directions and then you won't worry as much.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:40 PM on September 30, 2012

When in doubt, follow your child's lead. Your doctor sounds a bit crazy.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:24 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll also add to this that my cousins 4 month old just died from SIDS after rolling onto his stomach (which he did all the time apparently), the doctors in Australia told my cousin that they shouldn't have allowed them to do that and now the whole family is very cautious about it (obviously).

I'll email the links here, to sleep positioners risk and also to the recommendation that the baby, once it can turn over is fine, to the doctor to see what she says, and also check with the developmental specialist.

I will say that the pediatrician definitely has my babies best interest at heart, she actually was the neonatologist in the birthing room when he was born and was the primary neonatologist for him during his stay in the NICU and has stayed on as his pediatrician. That said, I would like to get some sleep in the next year and a half.
posted by Admira at 8:09 PM on September 30, 2012

I'd worry that the baby would work his way down the crib in his struggles to get on his tummy and suddenly have his face between two rolled-up towels, posing a suffocation risk. With a more mobile baby, suffocation is easily as much of a concern as SIDS.

So, so sorry about your cousin's baby.
posted by palliser at 8:36 PM on September 30, 2012

Our pediatrician says we should definitely not let him sleep on his stomach till he is a year and a half!

I think you should consult with another pediatrician. A year and a half is well outside anything I've heard.

Our kid was also an early flipper (and stander, and walker, etc.). Short of sitting in vigil all night, there was no way she was staying on her back all night. Our doctor said if she can flip both ways there's really not a lot we could do about it. We took all items out of the crib and had no issues.
posted by mikepop at 5:22 AM on October 1, 2012

So we've just cleared his bed of any towels or anything to hold him in position (after reading various SIDS websites that say anything in the bed increases the risk of SIDS, and now as soon as we place him on his back he rolls and gets his arms and legs stuck in the side of the crib and then cries.

We'll see how it goes but I prefer this much more.

Also in a conversation over email with my pediatrician today (who is away at a conference) she told me that the year and a half is the risk factor for SIDS for our child (due to his Chronic Lung Disease, prematurity etc) and not that we should force him to sleep on his stomach till that age, that was a misunderstanding on my part.

Thanks all for the advice, much appreciated. Not sure we'll sleep much for the next few nights watching nervously!
posted by Admira at 6:06 AM on October 1, 2012

I don't want to say it's all about liability, but I will say that any doctor's advice that could be marginally related to the extremely rare risk of a baby dying is going to be put in the most conservatively worded terms possible, and that the more frightened by liability the doctor is (the more sick patients they take care of) the more conservative they tend to be about such things. Sometimes bad things happen and there's nothing you can do about it, but as a doctor, you're not allowed to say that.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:07 AM on October 1, 2012

A breathable crib bumper is awesomesauce for avoiding the legs-stuck-in-crib-bars syndrome.
posted by Liesl at 6:55 AM on October 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'll second the breathable bumper. I used adhesive backed Velcro circles to help keep it from getting scrunched up.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 9:42 AM on October 1, 2012

As a followup, reason prevailed and he is happily rolling around as he pleases in his sleep. We should have worried a lot less about this!
posted by Admira at 11:31 PM on December 31, 2012

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