If you do a Google search of Tummy Time there is a plethora of information that appears. It covers everything from why a baby should be on their stomach to ideas on how to get your baby to enjoy being on their stomach. This being said, I still come across a lot of questions regarding Tummy Time and I hope to shed some light on this potentially enigmatic developmental phenomenon!
Tummy Time has become a common phrase in the last decade or so as a result of the NICHD Back to Sleep Campaign. Prior to this time most parents put their children to sleep on their stomachs so Tummy Time was never an issue. Now, with children sleeping on their backs they are spending 12 or more hours a day (if a parent is lucky and their child sleeps that much) on their backs which used to be devoted to time on their stomach. Tummy Time evolved in response to the disproportionate amount of time that children were spending on their backs and the resultant side effects in their gross motor development. In fact, some physical therapists have found that the increased amount of time an infant spends on their back while awake is the number one contributor to the continued rise in developmental delay cases.
Enough about the adverse effects of lack of Tummy Time, what are the benefits? The benefits are numerous and I will attempt to touch on many of them (I may have to cover them in a later post to do them justice). Tummy Time helps your child to strengthen their neck (head control), back (trunk/posture control), and tush muscles (necessary for all sorts of gross motor movement). It also allows your child to stretch. While in the womb, they spend nine months in the fetal position (tightly curled up) and now they need to stretch out their back and hips and legs. Stretching is also important due to the increased amount of time children are spending in carriers and bouncy seats. It will decrease the likelihood of your child developing a flat spot on the back or side of their head. The back of the skull is soft and developing so it is easily malleable while their facial bones are firm and not as likely to deform. Tummy Time encourages your child to push up and strengthen their arms and shoulders, as well as begin to weight shift, and is the precursor to rolling as well as to pushing back onto all fours to learn how to crawl (see ‘To Crawl or Not to Crawl…‘ for more on crawling). Tummy Time also provides your child with new sensory experiences and can help them begin to organize their sensory system which may (this is my opinion) help to deter the rise in sensory processing disorders that we are seeing in our children. These are just a few of the benefits, there are many more.
As you can see, Tummy Time can spawn many avenues of conversation and I have only touched on a few of them here. Please comment or email me with any questions or areas that you would like to see more information on and I will expand on them in later posts. Also, look for strategies to encourage Tummy Time in an upcoming post!