Thanks to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most parents know the safest way for an infant to sleep is on their back. The campaign has reduced the number of children who have died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has declined by more than half. But sleeping is only a portion of the infant's day. What should parents do when their baby is awake?
"SIDS is a very serious issues, but it's also caused many of the parents I see in my clinic to be concerned about ever placing their children on their stomach, even if the child is awake," said Hannah Chow-Johnson, MD, pediatrician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
Tummy time is important for an infant's physical and mental development. If children don't spend time on their tummy, it will be harder for the child to push on the arms, which delays rolling over. It also can flatten the back portion of the skull.
"If you notice your child starts to have a flat spot on the back of the skull, spend more time playing together on the floor on your tummies and this most likely will correct the issue," said Chow.
Chow suggests parents place infants on their tummy whenever he or she is awake, even if it's only for a minute each time. Floor tummy time is preferred but lying on a parent's stomach will help build head and neck muscle strength as well.
"Even newborns can lift their heads up briefly. So, have some tummy time right from the start," said Chow. "Tummy time exercises will help your infant be at maximum strength and set the foundation for rolling and crawling."
In addition to helping your child's physical strength, it also gives your baby a different view of the world and is great for mental development.
Strong head and neck muscles also help reduce the risk of SIDS. So, it's important for the baby's safety to have some tummy time when awake and always place on the back when asleep.
"To keep your child safe and healthy remember back to sleep, tummy to play," said Chow.
Loyola University Health System