Monday, October 31, 2011

Tummy Time (Part 1): Why Tummy Time?

There is nothing cuter than a pudgy baby tummy; unless you're One Sassy Doctor (me) and also like to snuggle baby toes. Back to tummy time! Tummy time is a challenging yet critically important part of baby play and development. Although we always hear how important tummy time is from a “doctor advice” angle, it’s not “Should I do it?” but “How do I do it?” that most parents struggle with. This first blog post on tummy time will explore why tummy time is so important. Next week, I’ll give you some pointers on how to get started!

I am going to start this posting with a super-important statement:

Babies should sleep on the back. Babies should sleep on a firm surface designed for sleep. Sleep spaces should be free of soft toys and soft bedding. Nothing we’re going to write in this blog post changes that fact, ok?

Ever since the American Academy of Pediatrics began encouraging babies to sleep flat on the back (no side sleeping, either!) we’ve seen an increase in plagiocephaly (doctor word) or “flat head syndrome”. In some babies, there has also been a delay in development of some motor milestones related to upper body and abdominal musculature development and coordination. I want to stress that these are conditions that improve, most often, on their own and are not nearly as concerning as the risks presented with tummy and side sleeping.

Tummy time helps with reducing the chances of these conditions. It’s a simple reason: more time on the back (at night) means less time on the tummy! So, the baby does not get a chance to develop those muscles unless we create opportunities for that to happen—and tummy time is that opportunity!