SILVER SPRING, Md, May 19, 2011 — Why is it that most babies like to sleep on their bellies when we want them to sleep on their backs, and they scream during tummy time when we want them to be on their stomachs? Many mothers have wrestled with the screaming tummy time infant.
Some can’t bear to hear their little one cry, so they abort the needed time on the floor early. Some decide that their baby just doesn’t like it and stop trying altogether. Other mothers plow on, trying to distract and coax their little one through the recommended 15 minutes a day. The lucky mothers have infants who like this sort of play.
Regardless of how much your baby enjoys his tummy time, it is an important contributor to his physical development. Since the implementation of the “back to sleep” program in the mid 1990s to combat SIDS, infants have been loosing that crucial time on their stomach.
In fact, tummy time is so important to infant development, the American Academy of Pediatrics has tried to rebrand the back to sleep program as “back to sleep, belly to play everyday,” and provides guidelines for how much tummy time an infant should have. There are some occupational therapists who now believe that the lack of time on the stomach can lead to severe developmental delays overall. In a February 2011 interview, Amy Vaughn, an occupational therapist at Burrell Behavioral Health, said that the muscle strength and development that is gained in tummy time can affect everything from speech and eating at younger ages, and handwriting, endurance and hand-eye coordination in later years.
The opinion on whether crawling leads to further complications like Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is split. There are groups and authors that say the failure to crawl can cause serious long lasting ramification on a child’s mental and physical development. Others say that there are plenty of children who go straight to walking who never have further problems.
Some see the inability to crawl as a symptom rather than a cause. In fact, the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation says that the cause of SPD is a subject under research and that preliminary research shows that it is at least partially inherited, but doesn’t discount the contribution of environmental factors. It does, however, list failure to crawl as a red flag, not a cause. The Dyspraxia Foundation also lists failure to crawl as a symptom rather than a cause.
Even if a failure to crawl is a symptom of SPD, early identification and treatment is important to prevent the problems from snowballing and causing greater delays later in life. If you aren’t giving your baby time on his tummy, it makes it difficult to identify a genuine developmental problem versus one of lack of opportunity.
Regardless of whether skipping crawling can lead to greater problems, putting them on their bellies helps develop back and neck muscles early on that are important for holding up one’s head, and then sitting up unassisted. After the baby develops those muscles, it’s on to rolling over and developing arm and leg strength that is needed for crawling, and later walking. So, even if baby doesn’t like his tummy time, let him exercise those muscles that he wouldn’t get by just being on his back alone.
Follow Brighid on Twitter at @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.
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