Does Tummy Time for Babies Help Development Milestones?

Baby tummy time
Baby tummy time

Tummy time for babies will help them meet their developmental milestones but many parents are confused about the advice.  Since sleeping advice changed with the “Back to Sleep” campaigns to avoid babies sleeping on their tummy, babies are getting less and less tummy time.

Tummy time can also help with flat head distortions, sometimes called plagiocephaly. It seems that lying a baby prone can offer some protection from a flat head.

Baby tummy time will also help develop the normal S curves of the spine and strong neck and back muscles so from a chiropractors perspective – we love it. Strong spinal muscles will help protect against the bangs and knocks that babies and toddlers often experience. Babies have very flexible necks so damaging the neck joints is likely to be difficult. But not impossible. Babies that we see here at Sundial often have jammed neck joints and this may cause aches and pains that they cannot tell us about. It has also been linked with skull distortions like plagiocephaly.

Properly functioning neck and back muscles are important for balance so exercising them is important. Tummy time may also help eye co-ordination. The neck muscles are linked with the eye muscles and balance senses through a series of reflexes. This helps us track a moving object so our neck and eye muscles can work together without us thinking about it. It’s automatic. Stimulating neck muscles with tummy time may help improve eye co-ordination and balance.

Recently some theories have emerged about how humans developed such large brains compared with other animals. It is thought that as we started to stand up from all fours the muscle development required to do it stimulated brain development. So the evolution onto two feet rather than four allowed our frontal cortex to grow. The frontal cortex is where much of our human thought occurs. If this is true then the it was the act of standing upright that drove brain development rather than the other way round.

One of the greatest sources of brain stimulation comes from the nerve endings (proprioceptors) in and around our muscles. These nerve endings are especially plentiful in the neck and back muscles.We know that brain cells love stimulation. They grow and make new connections with other brain cells when they are stimulated. So the more stimulation the better. That may be one of the reasons tummy time works so well to improve development and help babies hit their developmental milestones.

In the next article we see Top Tips for Tummy Time.

Note:- It is important to supervise babies when they are on their tummies, especially when they are very young.


Parental Information and Behaviors and Provider Practices Related to Tummy Time and Back to Sleep
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Neurobehavioral Disorders of Childhood, An Evolutionary Perspective. R Meililo and G Leisman. 2004 Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers pages 18-32

Effect of Pediatric Physical Therapy on Deformational Plagiocephaly in Children With Positional Preference, A Randomized Controlled Trial.  Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med/ Vol 162, no. 8, Aug 2008.  Leo A. van Vlimmeren, PhD, PT; Yolanda van der Graaf, MD, PhD; Magda M. Boere-Boonekamp, MD, PhD; Monique P. L’Hoir, PhD; Paul J. M. Helders, PhD, PT; Raoul H. H. Engelbert, PhD, PT

Manual Therapy in Children, Heiner Biedermann PhD, Churchill Livingstone 2004

Serial developmental assessments in infants with deformational plagiocephaly. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 48: 274–278. Hutchison, B. L., Stewart, A. W., de Chalain, T. and Mitchell, E. A. (2012).