August 09, 2012 09:30
| Children and Kids
Swati Bhagat is a specialist paediatric physiotherapist at Central Health Physiotherapy which has a practice and clinic at The Royal Hospital Chelsea. Here she writes about how babies need time on their tummies during their waking hours to optimise growth and development.
By building awareness amongst parents of the importance of placing babies on their backs to sleep, the Back to Sleep Campaign has significantly and successfully reduced the number of cot deaths since 1994.
However, as a result, parents are often concerned about their babies being on their stomachs during the day as well. In fact, 19% of mothers with children under six months old never put their babies on their fronts to play and only 22% regularly give their babies "tummy time".
Paediatric chartered physiotherapists warn that this can have a detrimental effect on babies’ development, and crawling and walking can be delayed.
Peta Smith, vice chair of the Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists (APCP) says: “By spending time on their tummies, babies learn to move from side to side and this helps them learn to reach and crawl. Not only does tummy time help with coordination, balance and postural control, which is the foundation for all movement skills, it increases babies’ confidence and independence, helping them to become motivated to explore their surroundings as they learn to control their bodies.”
She added that although babies predominantly placed on their backs eventually catch up in their development skills, the first few months of life are an important time for babies to start to become aware of their bodies and begin to learn movement and balance.
Physiotherapists recommend at least three periods a day of tummy time for a few minutes or longer. Babies will get used to being in different positions, lift their heads against gravity and build up strength on their arms by leaning on them.
Make it fun for your baby! Perhaps use mirrors, or place their favourite toys in front of them, helping them to learn to reach out.
Joyce Epstein, Director at the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, stressed that whilst babies should be placed on their backs to sleep, (“babies who do not sleep on the back have a nine times increased risk of cot death”) they should also have more "tummy time" while awake to aid healthy development.
Central Health Physiotherapy, The Royal Hospital Chelsea, Royal Hospital Road / 020 7404 6343