Find Out Why Tummy Time Is So Important For Your Baby And How You Can Ensure Your Baby Is Getting Enough Of It.

The Back to Sleep Campaign that was began by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1992 has been instrumental in preventing SIDS, however has also led to unintended consequences, such as a delay in reaching developmental milestones and flat spots on the back of baby's head. Find out why tummy time is so important for your baby and how you can ensure your baby is getting enough of it.

by Monica Beyer

Researchers discovered that the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome increased when infants were placed on their tummies to sleep, and this lead to a nationwide campaign to educate and inform parents about this risk and encourage them to place their babies on their backs or sides at bedtime. In turn, there was a dramatic decrease in the rate of SIDS-related infant deaths, but the emphasis on putting babies "back to sleep" may lead to some parents not wanting to put their babies on their tummies at all.

In a statement issued in August 2008 by the American Physical Therapy Association, not enough tummy time can have siginificant consequences in a baby's natural rate of development.

Colleen Coulter-O'Berry, a physical therapist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said, "I see new parents all the time that, by four months of age, have never put their babies on their bellies because they are afraid the baby is going to suffocate." This can lead to a variety of problems for the baby, such as misshapen skulls (from being in one position) or torticollis, which is a problem in the developement of neck muscles.

How to promote tummy time

It can be easy to work tummy time into your daily routine. After a nap, feeding time and diaper change, lie him on a blanket in the middle of the floor. Some babies show a strong dislike to being on their tummies at first and will fuss or cry. If your baby protests, you can start off by keeping the tummy time sessions short. Increase his time on the floor until he can tolerate it without expressing discomfort, and soon he will likely learn to enjoy his tummy time. He might also like it if you lie down on the floor across from him and encourage him with soft talk, singing and gentle pats. His natural inclination will be to try to lift his head to see you and what you are doing, and in doing so he will naturally increase his neck strength.

You can also gradually add small, baby-safe toys in front of him, particularly ones which rattle or make other noises. Rattle the toy and see if he tries to seek it out. It may serve to distract him from the unfamiliar feeling of being on his tummy long enough to keep him happy.

Avoid too much baby gear

It is really tempting to buy up all of the baby gear that you see in the stores. The truth is that a lot of baby gear can also lead to an over-reliance on them and can cost your baby of valuable time that she should be spending on working on developmental milestones.

Tummy time helps promote all sorts of exciting activities, such as rolling over, sitting up and eventually crawling. If your baby spends her time strapped in an infant swing or in a baby seat, she's not being allowed to explore her world and develop on her own pace. Sometimes the pressure from not changing positions or sitting in a car seat for extended peroids of time can cause a baby's skull to flatten, and while not impossible to overcome, is preventable.

Explore the floor

Building tummy time into your day can be a fun way to interact with your baby. Keep her on her back (or side) at naptime and bedtime, but during the day let her learn to explore the floor!

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