Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Belly-Time And Your Baby

Putting baby "on his back to sleep" is the new saying among neonatal healthcare professionals. During the 1980s and early 1990s, many people believed that babies should not lie on their backs, but on their tummies, because they could choke on vomit.

New research disproved this idea and said instead that babies are more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) if they are sleeping on their stomachs. That change has meant that many babies do not get enough time on their tummies, which is important for their development.

Allowing your child to lie down on his or her stomach will encourage him or her to hold up the head to look around. While your baby will not pick up her head yet, she will try, and that will help her to strengthen her neck muscles.

Picking up the head, and eventually shoulders, will help your little boy to open up his chest cavity. That will increase his respiratory capacity and help to build strong lungs. The other benefit is to your baby's digestive system. The increase in muscle structure will help the baby's body digest milk more easily, improving his overall health.

The problem for many babies, however, is that the admonition against allowing baby to sleep on her belly means that she is not interested in doing so. If your baby is reluctant to spend any daytime playing time on his tummy, then you can make it a little easier with a few simple steps.

First, endeavor to spend some time with your baby everyday for a few days until you get this situation resolved. Sit with your back against a wall with your knees raised. Put your little one on her or his tummy on your thighs. While the baby is lying there, which should be a comfortable position, begin to rub his or her back and neck softly.

Work on making your baby feel safe by cooing or singing softly. Then you should slowly lower your knees. You may have to work on this step for a while, lowering your knees gradually while your baby gets accustomed to the idea. Once you have worked up to having your knees flat on the floor, you can move to the next step.

Put a soft blanket or a pillow between your legs and put the baby facedown on it. Some babies' complaint is that the floor may be hard or cold or otherwise uninviting. While you cannot leave your little one unattended on a pillow or large blanket, you can allow him or her to lie down on it to get comfortable before you make the move to the floor.

Do make sure that your floor is not too uncomfortable. If it is too hard or cold, try to remedy this situation by adding a plush area rug to the floor or by putting out a thin blanket. If your baby continues to fuss about tummy time, you may want to ask a healthcare provider if there could be a problem. Tummy time is essential to helping your baby's development.

By Julia Mercer

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