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For babies, the flip side of 'back to sleep'

August 6, 2008 | 12:55 pm

The 1992 "Back to Sleep" campaign by the American Academy of Pediatrics, aimed at preventing sudden infant death syndrome in infants, has been highly successful. It convinced parents of the vital importance of putting newborns and infants to sleep on their backs.

But that position is for when they're sleeping and unsupervised, says the American Physical Therapy Kid3 Assn. A national survey of 400 pediatric physical and occupational therapists by the children's health advocacy group Pathways Awareness found that two-thirds of therapists reported increases in motor delays in infants who spend too much time on their backs.

"We have seen first-hand what the lack of tummy time can mean for a baby: developmental, cognitive, and organizational skills delays, eye-tracking problems, and behavioral issues, to name just some complications," said association spokeswoman Judy Towne Jennings from Fairfield, Ohio, in a news release. "New parents are told of the importance of babies sleeping on their backs to avoid SIDS, but they are not always informed about the importance of tummy time."

It's not just when they're asleep that babies are on their backs. What with car seats, infant carriers, strollers and swings, the new generation of babies spend much of their awake time locked into a variety of protective containers -- on their backs.

Time on their stomachs promotes muscle development and helps avoid flat areas on the backs of heads. So regularly get the little tykes out of those convenient containers and get down on the floor with them. The association offers a brochure to show new parents when and how to introduce a variety of healthful positions.

-- Susan Brink

Photo: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times