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We are sleep training our 4 month old. Its working great except that now he is flipping over to him belly and then he starts crying.

Should we go in and flip him back? Should we leave him to figure it out and flip back over. He doesn't seem to be figuring it out now (after over 1 1/2 hours) so we have been flipping him back but wanted to see if that was the right thing to do.

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3 Answers

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Most of the work you will need to do for this is during the day. Lots of tummy time - at least as often as he eats in the day. When he is on his tummy hold a toy in front of him and bring it around in his periferal vision until his head tilts so far back that it flips his body over on his back. This will help him learn how to flip and get used to the feeling of flipping.

You can flip him once or twice each night or at each episode but if he flips back over instantly then you do not want to get into a power struggle. If this happens you can move to supporting him on him tummy so he feels safe and comfortable. I would suggest, patting (until calm but not to sleep), shushing, singing/talking. Make sure the crib is safe, the sheets are taught and the mattress is not on the toddler side if there is one.

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Current guidelines recommend putting your baby to sleep on his back, but it's okay if he flips over on his own. I personally haven't been completely comfortable until my children could reliably flip over again to their back on their own. However, if he's not comfortable on his tummy, an hour and a half is way too long to let a baby cry for "training purposes." If he doesn't get it the first 5-10 minutes, giving him more time is only going to stress him out.

Also, the purpose of sleep training is to make it more convenient for the parents, not the child. If you're up worrying about him crying on his tummy, it isn't doing either of you any good. Sometimes babies who have a hard time tossing and turning do better tightly swaddled or sleeping in a swing or bouncer seat.

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Do you have any references for preventing a child from sleeping after rolling over from their back to their tummy? I know you are supposed to put them on their backs to sleep, but we were told that once our son was old enough to roll over onto his stomach by himself, it was okay for him to sleep that way, although we should continue starting him off for the night on his back. This website, while not what I'd call authoritative, backs up that position. –  Beofett Dec 24 '11 at 18:23
    
You're probably right, @Beofett. I think my kids all learned flipping front to back before back to front, so I probably mixed it up in my head. –  Karl Bielefeldt Dec 24 '11 at 19:00
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I wouldn't worry about which way he is sleeping, if he gets into that possition on his own it is safe for him to sleep that way.

As far as what to do, he is not crying because he is having trouble falling asleep, he is crying because he is stuck so by all means go and flip him over. (I am a big beleiver in crying yourself to sleep, but in this case...)

Be sure to give him lots and lots of tummy time during the day and practice with him turning over so he will learn quickly. It should not take too long for him to get it.

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