Tummy Time for Babies prevents developmental delays
CHICAGO, Aug. 7 -- Infants who spend too much waking time on their back may have an increased risk of delayed motor development, a survey of pediatric therapists suggests. Two-thirds of the 409 physical, occupational, and speech therapists surveyed said they had seen an increased frequency of early motor delays in babies younger than six months. More than 80% of respondents who noted increases in delayed early motor development cited a lack of "tummy time" while awake as the principal reason for the increase. "We have seen first-hand what the lack of tummy time can mean for a baby: developmental, cognitive, and organizational skills delays, eye-tracking problems, and behavioral issues, to name just some complications," said Judy Towne Jennings, a Fairfield, Ohio, physical therapist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association.
The American Academy of Pediatrics launched a campaign in 1992 to improve parents' awareness of the importance of putting infants to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. The physical therapy group supports that position, but as reflected in the survey, many therapists see a need to educate parents about the importance of tummy time. Members of the group were among the participants in the survey, which was sponsored by Pathways Awareness, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that focuses on issues of early developmental delay.
According to a summary statement from Pathways Awareness, the survey was conducted earlier this year to "amass and quantify the observations of early motor delays, as well as identify causal factors."
In cooperation with the Neuro-Developmental Treatment Association and the Pediatric Section of the APTA, Pathways Awareness identified and surveyed therapists who specialize in working with children. The respondents averaged 20 years in practice.
Among other opinions expressed by the survey participants:
61% said early motor delays can be caused or exacerbated by back-sleeping
77% had personally observed instances of early motor delay attributable to babies' spending too much time on their backs
66% said most parents have little or no understanding of tummy time
44% traced the association between tummy time and early motor delay back four to six years, and 34% said the association emerged within the past three years
"New parents are told of the importance of babies sleeping on their backs to avoid SIDS, but they are not always informed about the importance of tummy time," said Jennings.
Atlanta physical therapist Colleen Coulter-O'Berry said too much waking time on the back can lead to flattening and other deformities of an infant's skull.
"Since the early 1990s, we have seen a significant decrease in SIDS cases, while simultaneously witnessing an alarming increase in skull deformation," she said.
A recent study by Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle showed that the frequency of referrals for misshapen heads has increased by as much as 600% since the early 1990s.
Coulter-O'Berry is co-author of Tummy Time Tools, a guide for educating parents about techniques to increase the amount of wake time infants spend on their stomachs. The publication is available through the Alexandria, Va.-based physical therapy group (www.apta.org/consumers).
Pathways Awareness pointed out that "the survey does not definitively identify lack of tummy time as the cause of the increase in early motor delays. Rather, the survey quantifies experienced observations by qualified professionals, which may serve as a hypothesis for a future scientifically controlled study on the rate of increase and causes of early motor delays."
"In addition to back-sleeping and lack of tummy time," it pointed out, "the increase may also be caused by factors such as a higher survival rate of preterm babies, increased numbers of twins and triplets (who may be crowded in the uterus), and increased survival of children with cardiac, neurological, and genetic disorders."
Primary source: Pathways Awareness FoundationSource reference:Pathways Awareness Early Motor Development Survey. Pathways Awareness Foundation. Chicago 2008.