Because babies today spend a lot of time on their backs, the importance
of tummy time is often overlooked. Since 1994, the American Academy of
Pediatrics has encouraged parents to put their infants to bed on their
backs. The “Back To Sleep” campaign, as it was called, was
intended to educate parents about safe infant sleep positions and the
potential danger of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS. Today, at the
urging of pediatricians, nurses and other health care providers, babies
are put on their backs for sleep, in “safe cribs” with no
soft bedding to impede a baby’s airway while sleeping.
Happily, the incidence of SIDS has dropped by 40% since this initiative
began. At the same time, because infants spend a significant portion of
their day sleeping, babies are spending many more hours on their backs
than babies did years ago. Coupled with this, babies are often placed
in carriers with rigid backs during their waking hours. As a result of
this added pressure on the back of the baby’s head, some babies
acquire an abnormal shape or flattening of the back of the head.
To prevent this flattening and to facilitate normal motor development,
babies should frequently be placed on their tummies during waking hours.
This should be done while you are observing your baby and/or playing with
him. There are many ways this can be accomplished: hold your baby on your
chest while you are in a reclined position, or place him on a play mat.
In either case, you should be eye to eye with him so he will learn to
lift his head to see you. Encourage older siblings to do the same and
place favorite toys in front of the baby so that he will look and eventually
begin to reach for toys. Place babies on their sides also to give them
some variety in their positioning. By assisting them in this position,
they will learn to roll.
As babies learn to lift their heads, they are also pushing up with their
arms and developing strength in their necks, backs, shoulders and arms.
These are the muscles they will need to roll, crawl and sit.
Some babies with reflux have difficulty on their tummies and may spit up
more. Try placing them on a wedge so their head is higher than their tummy
and only put them on their tummies after they have had time to digest
their last feeding.
Babies may occasionally fuss when first placed in tummy time. Begin by
having them in this position for just a few minutes and then try to increase
the time daily. Make it a fun time by talking, singing, rubbing his back,
etc. Babies need to experience different positions so that their muscles
will strengthen and they will begin to move independently.