The American Physical Therapy Association is warning parents that infants who spend too much time on their backs risk developmental and cognitive delays such as misshapen heads, motor delays and under developed neck and back muscles. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to let their infants spend time on their stomachs while they’re awake, said pediatric physical therapist Sue Allen of St. Louis.
"Anytime they see their child get on their stomach that’s a natural occurrence," she said.
One way to get an infant used to being on their stomach is to start as soon as the baby comes home. A parent can rest the child on their chest and lean back into a reclining position. This gets the baby used to different pressure points.
"Often it’s a struggle for parent caregiver to get a child to tolerate being on their tummy for any period of a time," Allen said.
She said it’s easy to safely work neck and back muscles using a simple toy, like a block or a doll.
"Be on their tummy and they’ll look up and they’ll see it on one side and you move it to the other side and so they’re going to want to turn their head and when the ground is in the way then their going to pick their head up and turn it the other way," Allen said.
You want to go all the way around the child’s head so they look behind, to each side and in front. Allen suggests putting the object at different levels and angles.