It turns out the experts who nag you about persisting with tummy time may be on to something. Research shows there are plenty of benefits to your baby’s development and learning. “Tummy time is the precursor to postural strength, head control, arm and shoulder development, rolling, crawling and, of course, walking,” says paediatric chiropractor Dr Jacey Pryjma.
Here’s more proof that tummy time rocks:
- A survey of 400 paediatric physical and occupational therapists found that a lack of tummy time was the number one contributor to an increase in motor delays in children, such as crawling, rolling and lifting. Researcher Jude Towne Jennings says: ‘We have seen first-hand what the lack of tummy time can mean for a baby: developmental, cognitive, and organisational skills delays, eye-tracking problems and behavioural issues.’
- Delayed motor development in children can lead to all sorts of problems in later life, according to research that’s linked a lack of tummy time as a child to poorer gym class performance as a 14-year-old, lower scores in reading comprehension tests in the 20s, and reduced muscle strength at age 31.
- Tummy time helps babies’ brains, say researchers. As they move around and explore on their tummies, babies learn to lift their head and exercise the muscles that stimulate brain development. Bonus: eye development, which aids co-ordination and social skills. ‘Baby will start to look near and far and look around for items to grab. These activities will help to develop eye co-ordination as well as hand-eye co-ordination,’ says Dr Pryjma.
- The Journal of Perinatal Education says tummy time is essential for general upper body strengthening (in the neck, chest and back), while a 2007 study published in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology found that babies who spent time on their tummy when awake achieved developmental milestones – such as sitting and rolling – significantly earlier than those who didn’t. Tummy time can also help to prevent plagiocephaly, more commonly known as flat-head syndrome, as it encourages movement rather than spending long periods in one position, which can lead to misshapen heads.
- Tummy time aids digestion, according to Dr Pryjma. ‘The pressure on baby’s tummy is great for the stomach, small and large intestine,’ she says.
- Tummy time is vital for the development of the cervical curve. Every time a child lifts her head she’s engaging not only the bigger muscles of the neck, shoulders and back, but the very important intrinsic smaller muscles that are at each level of the spine, explains Dr Pryjma. ‘It’s these muscles that co-ordinate movement and fine tune head and neck control. They’re also important for relaying information about the position of the neck, head and movement; this is required for balance, injury prevention, spinal development and breathing.’ A poor neck curve has been linked to compromised breathing in children, as well as the development of chronic conditions such as neck pain and headaches.
This article was written by Bessie Recep for Kidspot, New Zealand’s best parenting resource.