Throughout the 1990’s, a number of campaigns aimed at encouraging parents to put their infants to sleep on their backs rather than on their stomachs led to a considerable reduction in the number of deaths attributable to sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS. Unfortunately, these campaigns have also led many parents to believe that it is better to entirely avoid putting babies on their stomachs, and that, even when they are awake.
The muscles in the necks, backs and shoulder of babies who do not spend enough time on their stomachs are unable to strengthen and develop properly. As these are the muscles required for an infant to roll, sit and crawl, the lack of strength may also lead to a delay in motor skill development. Furthermore, infants who are placed on their backs too often also have an increased risk of suffering from cranial deformation, such as the appearance of flattened areas on the back of their skulls. They might also develop tight neck muscles and/or neck muscle imbalance, which is a condition known as torticollis.
In fact, you need not hesitate to place your infant on their stomach for short periods of time while they are awake. But be ready, your baby will likely make quite a fuss at first! This is entirely normal, because in addition to being quite unfamiliar, this position is also demanding on an infant, and might take a little getting used to. Your little bundle of joy will actually have to use a lot of strength to keep their head up, or they will be unable to see much of their surroundings.
You need not worry however as there are a number of strategies to help babies be more comfortable while they are lying on their little bellies. For example, you can distract your child by joining him or her on the floor for a bit of fun. You can also place colourful toys within their reach to keep them amused and focused. One thing to remember is that you must avoid placing babies on their stomachs if they are hungry or tired. You should also help make the time they spend on their stomach cosier. A floor that is too cold, too rough or too slippery can be the cause of much fuss! Simply putting a soft, plush blanket on the floor before you place them on their stomach will help make the experience more enjoyable!