Even if they hate it, it’s vital to let your baby spend some time on their tummy. "Tummy time" has been popularized in the last 20 years as pediatricians have noticed the benefits that it can have in strengthening a baby's muscles. It all has to do with the Back to Sleep campaign that was launched by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in 1994.
This campaign was promoted after the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that babies be placed to sleep on their back (or side) instead of their stomach. Since this initiative, the rate of SIDS has declined by 50%.
Now known as the Safe to Sleep campaign, NICHD still promotes placing babies to sleep on their back. However, with the increase of back sleeping, pediatricians have seen a significant increase in positional plagiocephaly-- more commonly known as "Flat Head Syndrome"-- which can happen if baby is laid in the same way too often and for too long.
The New York Times recently explored this issue and examined what parents could do to prevent plagiocephaly in their young babies. It's been drilled into the minds of most parents to place their baby on their back to sleep. As a result, parents are more likely to place their babies on their backs even during awake time.
Sleeping on the back isn't the cause of plagiocephaly but it is a big contributing factor. The amount of time a younger baby sleeps is usually 14-16 hours including nighttime sleep and naps. When their awake time is also spent mostly on their backs, this is when baby's heads begin to flatten instead of growing round.
Placing babies on the floor on their bellies will force them to use their neck muscles. It will also strengthen their arms, back, and hands. Plus, babies love looking around at the world above, so tummy time is a win-win.
But there are those babies who HATE tummy time and scream and cry when placed on their belly. In these cases, only place baby on their belly for short periods, starting with five minutes, and slowly increase the amount of time as they get used to the position and become stronger. You can also place your baby on their side for good head control. Holding baby is great too!
It's all about changing positions. Don't worry too much. As long as your baby is getting about 20 minutes of tummy time a day, and is being held and changing positions, your baby's head should be protected from positional plagiocephaly.
Does your baby like tummy time? What are some of your tips and tricks for getting your baby to enjoy it? Let us know in the comments!