Since the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) started recommending
that babies be put "back to sleep" more than 20 years ago, the
occurrences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) have dropped more
than 50 percent. Unfortunately, more infants are developing flat spots
on the back of their heads, a condition known as positional
In addition, because baby spends so much time on the back, there are fewer chances to work the muscles in the upper body (neck, shoulder, upper trunk and arms) and motor development (grasping, manipulating toys) can be delayed. That can affect how long it takes your baby to master skills like lifting the head and rolling over, but also impact sitting and crawling.
You can start helping your baby today with these following ideas.
- Start early. You can start right away, as early as
in the hospital. Aim for two to three times a day, for three to five
minutes each time. Place your newborn belly-down on your chest or across
your lap for a few minutes so baby gets used to the position. Your baby
may not like tummy time at first, so try a slightly different approach
- Think comfort. As your baby grows stronger, lay
baby on a flat, clean surface (e.g., blanket, play mat, etc.). If baby
cries or squirms, try some extra padding by rolling up a small receiving
blanket and tuck it under the chest.
- Safety first. Babies need time every day to be on
their tummies, but always under careful supervision. Also, wait at least
20 minutes after feedings to avoid pressure on a full belly.
- Watch for cues. Choose a time when baby's in the quiet alert state: ready to play and interact.
- Make it fun. Get down on the floor in front of your
baby and make eye contact. Next, place and rotate brightly colored toys
in front of your baby at different distances to encourage reaching (and
later, crawling). Choose toys in a variety of textures, color and
shape. A mirror is another good option.
- Get others in on the act. Encourage friends, family and caregivers to get down on the floor for short periods of tummy time.
- Switch it up. On a weekly basis, change how you
place baby in the crib. Rotate which end of the crib is considered the
head and foot. This encourages baby to turn his/her head to see what's
- Back to sleep, tummy to play. (2012). Healthy Children.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Berk, S. (2004, April). Tummy time. Parents Magazine. 171.
- Positional plagiolcephaly. (2007). National Institutes of Health - National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. Retrieved