If you’re a parent (or soon-to-be one) you have probably heard someone extolling the virtues of tummy time for your infant. For those of you who might not be familiar with the phrase, tummy time is supervised play for an infant on his/her tummy. Medical professionals recommend tummy time to help develop a baby’s neck and back muscles and to help prevent plagiocephaly, otherwise known as flat spots on the skull. Doctors say that with the successful “Back to Sleep” campaign, which has dramatically lowered the cases of sudden infant death syndrome, infants aren’t getting the needed time on their tummies.
If you’re like I was, you probably aren’t convinced. Oh, I had great plans to do tummy time with my daughter, but I really didn’t see it as a priority — not like keeping her fed or dry. In the grand scheme of parenting, it didn’t seem THAT important.
I am here to tell you — tummy time matters.
Now to be fair to me and my husband, we did have some valid reasons for not pushing tummy time with our daughter. Alaina was born with an imperforate anus and vaginal fistuala. In non-doctor speak, her rectum had failed to open and she was pooping vaginally. This meant surgery — three of them before she was 6 months old. The first surgery (at 2 days old) gave her stomas, which enabled her to poop in an ostomy bag.
Our surgeon said the stomas didn’t hurt her and that tummy time would be a safe activity for her. Alaina apparently didn’t get the message. She HATED tummy time — and can you really blame her? I don’t want to lay on a bag of my poop — its pretty gross when you think of it that way. So we let it slide until her stomas were closed, which was about two weeks before she was 6 months old. We tried tummy time again after the incision had healed, but by that time Alaina was already trying to army crawl. She wanted to move — and it wasn’t easy for her.
Shortly after Alaina turned one, our pediatrician referred us to physical therapists to evaluate Alaina’s development. Not surprisingly, she was 6-12 months behind, depending on what skill the therapist was evaluating. She started physical and occupational (fine motor skills) therapy.
Let’s fast forward to present day — Alaina is now 3 1/2 years old. She is still in physical therapy. She has made tremendous progress (we absolutely LOVE our therapists) but it has been a lot of work for her and us. The biggest thing we work on now is strengthening her the muscles in her core (stomach and back) and in her legs.
I am sure that two abdominal surgeries as a newborn were partly responsible for the weakened muscles. However, my mommy instincts tell me that tummy time probably would have helped negate some of that weakness.
Now I don’t want anyone reading this to be frightened — no, “Oh, my child will be horribly scarred for life if we don’t do tummy time!” If you saw my daughter, you wouldn’t know that she is slightly developmentally delayed. She runs, she plays, she climbs just like all of her peers. She just worked really hard to get there.
I’m just hoping that my story about the importance of tummy time will mean that your child doesn’t have to work as hard as mine did to be ready to play with her friends. Tummy time can really get your child ready for all of those wonderful milestones we wait for — crawling, walking, running, jumping.
To help you with tummy time, Little Rock Mamas and Healthy Families are giving away one Fisher Price play mat, retails for $40. To win, leave me a comment below about why you’d like this mat. Are you expecting? Is your little one already here? Are you a grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc.? Or are you thinking this would make a great gift for a friend who is expecting? I will choose a winner on Wednesday, Jan. 30, so you have until midnight Tuesday to enter.
For more information about tummy time and other parenting tips, visit Healthy Families. Healthy Families, a collaborative effort between Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas Department of Health, UAMS (Angels Program), Arkansas Children’s Hospital and other groups, has partnered with several bloggers, including Little Rock Mamas, for posts on a variety of important family issues.