Is it true that lying on the tummy can affect when and how a child achieves developmental milestones? Does it make sense to force your baby to get used to tummy time?
It’s a known fact that child development depends on a broad variety of factors: genetics, how the nervous and muscular systems work, the internal drive to act…
What’s also significant is in what position your little one spends the majority of his or her day. Believe it or not, but this can affect the motor activities of your child. Although it’s not always easy to predict how strong of an impact it is, the introduction of the American Academy of Pediatrics BACK TO SLEEP campaign to put babies to sleep on their backs rather than their tummies, confirmed that the position of a baby’s body can affect the course of their development.
WHY DOES TUMMY TIME MATTER?
Wait a minute. What has one to do with the other – that is… putting babies to sleep(!) on their backs with how they develop?
Hmmm, directly probably not that much. However, while conducting research it turned out that children who do not lie on their tummies while sleeping are also reluctant to accept this position during daily activities.
On the other hand, even parents who are aware of the benefits of tummy time quickly give up the moment their baby gives them the first signs of dissatisfaction… (hmm… somehow I’m not particularly surprised about that. ;))
Meanwhile, many scientific studies confirm that how children gain new skills largely depends on how much time they spend playing on their tummies.
BUT! This negative impact affects especially the youngest infants— according to some studies, in the case of 6-month-olds it is not that significant anymore.
DOES PUTTING THE BABY ON THE TUMMY AFFECT THEIR DEVELOPMENT?
- It has been noted that 4-month-old infants spending a significant amount of time on their tummies are more likely to attempt rolling over than their peers who don’t spend as much time in this position.
- A significant difference was observed in the way 2-month-old babies hold up their heads. According to research, children spending at least 15 minutes a day on their tummies were able to raise their heads at an angle of 45 degrees and they controlled it in that position much more easily than their peers, who weren’t put on their tummies as much.
- Playing on the tummy has a positive impact on the pace of acquiring new skills such as: supported sitting, independent sitting, moving on all-fours, or pulling up to a standing position.
One of the more interesting studies was an attempt to assess the impact of lying on the tummy on the quality and pace of achieving developmental milestones in 4-month-old babies.
The AIMS scale was used for the study (exactly the same scale I use in my work. ;))
In short, AIMS is a scale used to assess the quality of motor skills development in infants from birth to the end of the 18th month of life. It assesses postural control in relation to four developmental positions: lying on the back, lying on the tummy, sitting, and standing.
After analyzing the results of the study, it turned out that 4-month-old children, who spent at least some part of their active time on the tummy, showed better results in achieving individual milestones in each of the analyzed positions. This is important information supported by the results of other studies.
Babies spending at least 80 minutes a day on their tummies in the first three months of life showed better postural control than their peers who did not experience this position.
TO SUM UP:
Of course, the safest sleeping position for babies is lying on their backs and we stick to it, however:
- It is certainly worth making sure that during the day your child experiences lying on the tummy. This is when he or she works on skills that are the basis for achieving subsequent stages of development (straightening of the legs, bearing weight on the arms, stabilizing the shoulders). All this will be needed later for crawling, being on all fours, changing positions, getting up, and walking.
- It is definitely worth considering the issue of posture control. Children build their skills based of previously acquired abilities and experience. The sooner babies gain control of their posture, the better. 😉 Children will build further activity based on correct patterns of posture and movement. 😉
- From a physical therapist’s point of view, it is also worth mentioning that when going with a toddler for professional assessment, it would be good to know the amount of time that your child spends on the tummy during the day. This may affect the overall assessment of the baby’s development.
WE ALREADY KNOW THAT TUMMY TIME IS IMPORTANT, BUT THE QUESTION IS HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN?
I am well aware of the fact that some children simply do not accept lying on their tummy, period. In theory, babies should at least tolerate it – some less, others more, but still…
However, being a mom, I know perfectly well that… it is not always that easy. Oftentimes, the very thought that you WOULD HAVE TO put your baby on the tummy gives you the shivers.
DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO FORCE THE TUMMY POSITION?
In my opinion… no.
I’m not saying that you should completely give up, but rather think for a moment why your baby does not like this position. Sometimes it is simply difficult for the child and requires too much effort from him or her at a given moment. Sometimes lying on the tummy causes discomfort and even pain. Perhaps tummy time is causing acidic stomach contents to get into the esophagus. There could be a variety of reasons, and they often turn out to be simpler than we think.
If that’s the case, it is still worth gently and gradually to “make friends” with tummy time.
But in order to do that… firstly, you MUST bear in mind that maintaining this position requires a lot of effort from your baby. This is due to the fact that your little one is not yet able to fully control the work of their body. Secondly, purely technical aspects make it a position which even for us, adults, would be difficult to maintain.
See in a nutshell why this happens and how you can help your baby like lying on his or her tummy. 😉
When in 1992 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) first linked sleeping on the tummy with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as many as 70% of children living in the U.S. were put to sleep on their tummies. The incidence of SIDS was then 1.2 per 1000 births. By the year 2001, this changed completely: 87% of babies were put to sleep on their backs or on the side, which significantly reduced the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome to 0.56 per 1000 births. It was announced as a huge success of the BACK TO SLEEP campaign and indeed, the results speak for themselves.
You may also be interested in:
A great way to help your baby develop and LOVE tummy time is to play with them SMART! 😀 Check out my E-book on great playtime ideas for you and your baby. 😉
E-book: A COLLECTION OF IDEAS FOR THE MOST FUN PLAYTIME WITH YOUR CHILD
- Dudek-Shriber, Linda EdD, OTR/L; Zelazny, Susan MS, OTR/L ( 2007). “The Effects of Prone Positioning on the Quality and Acquisition of Developmental Milestones in Four-Month-Old Infants:” Pediatric Physical Therapy, April 2007, Volume 19: Issue 1, pgs. 48-55.
- Mildred, J.; Beard, K.; Dallwitz, A.; Unwin, J. (1995). “Play Position is influenced by Knowledge of SIDS: Sleep Position Recommendations:” Journal of Pediatric Child Health, vol. 31, pgs. 499–502.
- Davis, BE.; Moon, RY.; Sachs, HC. (1998). “Effects of Sleep Position on Infant Motor Development:” Pediatrics, vol. 102, pgs. 113–114.
- Salls, JS.; Silverman, LN.; Gatty, CM. (2002). “The Relationship of Infant Sleep and Play Positioning to Motor Milestone Achievement:” American Journal of Occupational Therapy, Vol. 56, pgs. 577–580.
- Jantz, JW.; Blosser, CD.; Fruechting, LA. (1997). “A Motor Milestone Change Noted with a Change in Sleep Position:” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, vol. 151, pgs. 565–568.