How does Tummy Time help shape your babies spine??
Many babies when put on their tummies do NOT like it! They tend to cry and fuss, which I know is very hard as a maternal instinct to hear and allow your child to be in distress! They are fine! I promise! This is not hurting them; it is just hard work holding that big head of theirs up against gravity! They may not like it, but it is only benefitting them! Putting your baby in the prone position (on their bellies) is such a critical part of their body’s development. This position strengthens the neck, back, arms and shoulder blade musculature which will begin to put forces on the spine to eventually begin to shape the correct curvatures of the spine for them to be able to walk upright as they age.
As an infant their spine is still in the shape of a “C” curvature from the fetal position they just spent 9 months in! When your child is put on their stomach for tummy time, this begins to allow the forces of gravity and the muscles of the neck and back to re-shape the spine to prepare for upright walking. A normal adult spine has a lordodic curvature or concave curvature at the neck and lower back. Where as the upper back and sacrum have a kyphotic curvature or convex curvature. Imagine two “S” connecting. These changes in the curvature of the spine allow for forces from gravity to be distributed evenly so we can keep our center of gravity through where the different curvatures meet. If this did not occur we would not be able to stand upright. We would fall over!
So as challenging as it may be to hear your little guy or girl cry or dislike tummy time, it is so important to make them do this! They are only crying because it is hard work and they don’t want to work that hard! It is the hardest thing they have had to do so far! I recommend trying tummy time as often throughout the day as you and your child can handle! The time and number of times per day will increase as your child gets more accustom to it. Use toys or music/videos to help distract them from working hard!
Tummy time is also very important to prevent Torticollis (head tilting and rotating to one side) from occurring or flattening of the back of their head. If the baby is always on their back, this can put too much pressure on their skull and begin to miss-shape their head. When severe enough a helmet may be prescribed to re-shape the head, but this is only more severe cases. Most children do not need a helmet if tummy time is utilized properly. If you are noticing your child or someone you know having a miss-shaped head or a noticeable head tilt, they may need to go to physical therapy for a short while to learn how to do more strengthening and stretching exercise to correct.
At Back in Action Ergonomics and Wellness, we provide physical therapy for infants and toddlers with torticollis, head flattening, and difficulty crawling or walking. Please contact us if you think your child would benefit from skilled physical therapy! Email us at Backinactionergo@gmail.comfor more information on how we can help your little one!
Alexandra Urban, DPT, CMTPT, HFS, CEAS