Tummy time is the informal name used by parents, childcare experts and others to describe the time an infant spends, while awake and attended, in the prone position.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has been recommending that infants be placed on their backs to sleep since 1992. While this reduced the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) by 50%, it also means infants are not spending nearly as much time on their stomachs as they used to. Lack of time spend in the prone position has led to an increase in head deformities and has been linked to possible developmental delays in infants.
By daily placing an infant on their stomach for tummy time play, these issues may be avoided or help to be reversed. Tummy time is important for every baby-but for an infant who has been diagnosed with a physical or other developmental delay, tummy time is even more crucial to their development.
Four reasons tummy time is beneficial to special needs infants:
• Gross motor skills-Tummy time helps to strengthen the neck, back and trunk muscles. This is especially important for infants who already have low tone. Tummy time will be the precursor to meeting major milestones such as sitting, crawling and pulling to a stand.
• Fine motor skills-Not only does tummy time help with baby’s gross motor, but it also aids their fine motor skills. Being in this position helps infants to bring their hands in midline position more easily. This can allow the child to accomplish hand-to-mouth and reaching activities more naturally than if they were lying on their back.
• Help eliminate head/neck problems-Spending time in the prone position may help prevent Plagiocepahly (flat head syndrome) and Torticollis in infants. These are issues that may arise from spending too much time in the supine position. Tummy time helps to prevent or reverse these issues and allows infants to develop good head and neck control.
• Interact with their surroundings more easily-Instead of being on their back looking at the ceiling, when in tummy time an infant can more easily be engaged in their environment. For the child with special needs this exposure is extremely important for developing the appropriate awareness and association with the sights and sounds around them.
Tummy time is one of the most beneficial activities for the infant with (or without) special needs. The simple skills developed from a good tummy time routine will be a stepping stone from which infants will build off of throughout childhood and beyond.
This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be used to diagnose, treat or be used in the place of a medical professional’s advice.