After the "back to sleep" campaign gained popularity, moms learned that their babies should always sleep on their backs to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). After researchers learned the importance of proper positioning in the crib, instances of SIDS drastically decreased in the United States. However, the idea also brought on a slew of new problems because babies were being left exclusively on their backs during rest and play times. Now, studies also highlight the importance of "tummy time" for babies. Experts are urging new moms to let their babies play on their bellies as much as possible while awake.

By letting your baby lie on his or her tummy during play time, you'll prevent a number of conditions and complications. First, you'll lessen the severity of the bald spot that might form on the back of your baby's head. The more time the bald spot is exposed to the air, the faster the hair will grow back. You'll also prevent a condition called torticollis, which happens when the neck muscles stiffen in a particular direction. In addition to preventing their complications, you'll also help your baby a lot by giving him or her a new perspective. Studies show that changing your baby's view can help him or her develop motor skills and reasoning more quickly. Visual development will also improve as your baby learns to look around at his or her surroundings. Finally, tummy time will strengthen the muscles in your baby's neck, back, and limbs so that the sitting-up stage happens a lot more quickly. Essentially, giving your baby time to play on his or her belly will help quicken the onset of numerous development milestones while preventing conditions related to a sedentary position.

When your baby finally starts acting interested in the world around him, tummy time will be exciting for both of you. You'll get to watch your baby explore in a new way, which will eventually lead to crawling and finally walking. As with any adult, a new perspective will help your baby's brain grow and expand in different directions, so it's an excellent idea to switch out the usual view of the ceiling. Tummy time during play is just as important as back time during sleep, so make sure you give your baby a combination of the two. When your baby reaches his milestones before others, you'll be glad you did.

Source: Karen Karmel-Ross et al: Lack of 'Tummy Time' Leads to Motor Delays in Infants. American Physical Therapy Association 2008

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