Back to sleep…tummy to play at least 20 minutes every day!
Back to sleep….tummy to play at least 20 minutes every day!
You are holding your precious baby and suddenly you realize that your beautiful baby’s head is a little flat…! What has happened? First there is no need to panic. Since the American Pediatrics (AAP) began encouraging us to put our babies to sleep on their backs, there has been a decrease in SIDS deaths by about half. This shows us that the “back to sleep” campaign is working but there also has been an increase in babies developing flattening on the back and/or sides of their heads. A study published in Pediatrics in July of 2013 showed that almost 1/2 of all 2 month olds had some flattening of their heads. This is called positional plagiocephaly which is just a big word for a little flat head due to positioning! This is caused when a baby spends too much time sleeping or sitting with his head in the same position. Babies are on their backs to sleep, and on their backs in car seats, strollers, swings and bouncy seats. All this back time can cause a baby’s soft bones in the skull to flatten out. Parents often begin to worry when their baby’s pretty little head doesn’t look so round anymore! The AAP tells parents not to panic, most head flattening is not serious at all and will go away on its own over time. We can prevent that flattening of your baby’s cute little head with a little tummy time.
Tummy time is important to help prevent positional flattening of your baby’s head but it also helps develop your baby’s neck muscles and upper body and core strength. This will help your baby reach important developmental milestones like rolling over, sitting up, scooting, crawling, and eventually standing and walking. Babies that have not had much tummy time can be delayed in hitting these important milestones in the first year.
How much tummy time does your baby need?
- You should begin tummy time as soon as you bring your baby home. Your baby needs just a few minutes several times a day at the beginning, and then building up to at least 20 minutes a day. Always supervise your baby when he is having tummy time. Do not leave him alone for safety reasons.
What if your baby fusses every time you try tummy time?
Many babies don’t like tummy time in the beginning. Start out slowly and soon your baby will get used to lying on his tummy. Try these tips:
- Distract your baby. Lie in front of your baby so he can see your face. Sing songs, make funny faces, play peek-a-boo, shake a rattle or place bright colored toys or a mirror in front of your baby.
- Try propping your baby up on his tummy with a nursing pillow or rolled blanket by placing the roll or pillow under his chest and underarms. This may help your baby see better and feel more supported.
- Lie on your back and place your baby on your chest. Many babies love this and this counts as tummy time too!
- Don’t put your baby on his tummy right after eating; this may increase his likelihood of spitting up!
Other tips to prevent head flattening.
- Alternate ends of the bed when you put your baby to bed. Babies naturally will look towards the light, so by alternating ends of the bed, your baby will turn his head to one side or the other. This will keep your baby’s head from flattening on one side. Don’t ever use positioners or rolled blankets to position your baby’s head while in the crib, this can increase the risk of SIDS.
- When your baby is awake, alter his position frequently. Place your baby on his tummy, in a swing briefly, on your chest, in a bouncy seat, and hold him upright. Alternating positions keeps constant pressure off one area of your baby’s head.
- A breast-fed baby will normally switch sides when nursing. If your baby is bottle fed, switch sides that you hold him to bottle feed. Switching sides to feed will keep pressure off just one side of your baby’s head.
So encourage that tummy time, keep changing your baby’s position when he is awake, switch up sides when you are nursing or bottle feeding, alternate ends of the bed when you put your baby to sleep and your baby’s head will keep it’s pretty round shape…unless Mom or Dad’s head is a little flat too! 🙂
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.