Parents are now very aware of the importance of laying their babies on their backs to sleep as lying them on their tummies can increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). In fact, cot deaths have decreased by 40% since the recommendation was put into effect in 1994.
But it is also important to have periods during the day that are reserved for putting your baby on his stomach. Physiotherapists have warned that not enough babies are having this special ‘Tummy Time’ and this can lead to stunted development in babies.
Some statistics show that approximately 19% of mothers with babies under six months old never put their babies on their stomachs and only 22% of mothers allocate Tummy Time to their baby’s daily routine.
Since the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign which encouraged parents to lay their babies on their backs to sleep it has been noticed that fewer babies are getting supervised Tummy Time. This can delay your baby’s development in terms of learning to crawl and eventually walk.
Research into the benefits of Tummy Time has shown that the infants who were put on their backs to sleep but during the day had supervised periods of Tummy Time were able to push up, roll over, sit up, and eventually stand quicker than babies who were left predominantly on their backs. It can also help with alleviating the pressure being applied to the same place on your baby’s head, sometimes causing slat spots.
Babies who do not have Tummy Time do eventually catch up in their development but in terms of a baby’s confidence and aiding their sense of independence parents need to be aware that their infant’s first few months are a very important learning phase in beginning to control their bodies and explore their surroundings. If they have regular Tummy Time they will learn much faster about movement and balance. Initially a baby spending time on his stomach will learn to move from side to side and this helps them learn how to crawl. It helps with postural control and coordination which are the basics for all movement skills.
It is recommended that babies are introduced to Tummy Time from birth. Up to 30 minutes a day, all at once or broken into smaller segments. Your baby’s head will get used to lifting against gravity, strengthening their neck muscles as well as their arms as they begin to lift their weight.
As well as leaving babies on their backs too much, leaving an infant in their car seat, carrier or swing can also be detrimental to their development.
Babies do not always want to go on their fronts and can find it strange. Babies can be encouraged by making Tummy Time fun. You can put toys and mirrors just ahead of your baby so they cannot quite reach them which will urge them to reach out and stretch.
It must be stressed that babies should always be put on their backs to sleep as infants who do not sleep on their backs have a nine times increase of SIDS. Nonetheless, when your baby is awake he should spend supervised time on his tummy to aid his healthy development.