Why Babies Need Tummy Time

4 January 2019
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Did you know that tummy time exercise is essential for future developmental milestones? Your newborn is learning and growing at a rapid rate, and she will experience new sensations as she matures. It is common for most infants to cry, fuss, and typically not enjoy being laid on their stomachs while awake. Actually, most babies tend to fall asleep instead of working on their neck and core strength. However, you are not failing if this is what happens in your house. 

Over the years of adjusting families with young infants, I can tell in a single adjustment if a baby is completing tummy time at home. I tend to bring the subject up often in the families that I notice it may not be happening. There was false information spread a few years ago about this exercise being useless, and sadly, many moms bought into it. This, paired with the “Back to Sleep” (“Safe to Sleep”) campaign, has led to developmental delays and problems with many babies. 

Laying a baby on her back does significantly lower SIDS risks; however, a baby who is always on her back is not going to develop on track. There are concerns about an infant’s head shape, especially if she is left on her back or supine position for most of the day. Babies who spend a majority of time lying on their backs in car seats, rockers or on play mats, can develop a misshapen or flattened head. You can read more about the increase in helmet wearing and Flat Head Syndrome here.

The problem is not just a flat spot on the head; your baby can develop problems with her neck and head muscles, and this misshapen head provides less room for the quickly expanding brain to grow. As a result, several children may be prone to developmental delays, sensory issues, speech and language trouble and attention and focus issues. Research has found that many students who struggle academically (and emotionally) lack the proper muscle tone in their neck, shoulders, and back to comfortably sit in a class, take notes, and look at the white board. 

Crying when introduced to tummy time is common, as it is a hard workout for a baby. She is working on strengthening her arms, legs, core, and neck so she can crawl correctly and eventually walk, run, and continue to develop on track. Tummy time also promotes proper posture, mental and visual stimulation, and exploration and interaction with the world around. Research shows that babies who spend at least 80 minutes per day (in small increments) playing on their tummy while awake are more likely to reach their milestones faster than those who spend less time on their tummy.

A 2017 study found that parents who report even the slightest head asymmetry in their newborn’s first month of life were more likely to prevent further asymmetry from occurring, and they were able to reverse the problem while working with their pediatrician and following side-lying technics and tummy time exercises. This I valuable information, as many parents believe the only solution is a helmet.

Do you struggle with tummy time? Here are a few ideas to make it a more peaceful practice:

  • Spread out a blanket in a clear area of the floor 
  • Try short sessions after a diaper change or after your baby wakes from a nap
  • Put a toy or toys within your baby’s reach to help your baby learn to play and interact
  • Sit with your baby while she is on the floor so that she doesn’t feel abandoned
  • Increase the session duration as your baby gets older

 

 

References:

https://journals.lww.com/pedpt/Fulltext/2007/01910/The_Effects_of_Prone_Positioning_on_the_Quality.7.aspx#P84

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/6/1236.short

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/000992280604500202

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/1107573

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0882596309002930

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01942638.2017.1287811