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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lack of Time on Tummy Shown to Hinder Achievement of Developmental Milestones, Say Physical Therapists

Babies should get enough "tummy time" throughout the day while they are awake and supervised, in light of a recent survey of therapists who say they've noticed an increase in motor delays in infants who spend too much time on their backs while awake, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) says.

In the national survey of 400 pediatric physical and occupational therapists, conducted on behalf of Pathways Awareness, a non-profit group dedicated to early detection of motor delays in children, two-thirds of those surveyed say they've seen an increase in early motor delays in
infants over the past six years. The survey was conducted with the assistance of APTA's Section on Pediatrics and the Neuro-Development Treatment Association (NDTA).

Those physical therapists who saw an increase in motor delays said that the lack of "tummy time," or the amount of time infants spend lying on their stomachs while awake, is the number one contributor to the escalation in cases.

APTA spokeswoman Judy Towne Jennings, a physical therapist and researcher from Fairfield, Ohio, says, "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." She adds, "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."

Jennings explains that because new parents now use car seats that also serve as infant carriers -- many of which fasten directly into strollers and swings without having to remove the baby from the seat -- this generation of babies spends prolonged periods of time in one position. She recommends that awake babies be placed in a variety of positions, including on their tummies, as soon as they return home from the hospital.

"Ideally, babies should be placed on their tummies after every nap, diaper change and feeding, starting with 1-2 minutes," she says.

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics launched its successful "Back to Sleep" campaign, which helped reduce the number of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) cases by educating parents on the importance of putting infants to sleep on their backs, rather than on their stomachs. While putting infants to sleep on their backs is still vitally important in reducing infant deaths, according to APTA, many physical therapists believe that there should be more education to parents on the importance of "tummy time" while babies are awake and supervised.

Colleen Coulter-O'Berry, a physical therapist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, says flattening of the baby's skull is another side effect of too much time spent on the back. "Since the early 1990s, we have seen a significant decrease in SIDS cases, while simultaneously witnessing an alarming increase in skull deformation," she says.

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Blogger NJTOM said...

The reason back sleep reduces the risk of SIDS overall is because some children have a brainstem defect and can't arouse from Stage 3 and Stage 4 NREM Sleep. Infants who sleep on their backs get much less Stage 3 and Stage 4 NREM sleep than infants who sleep on their stomachs. Stage 3 and Stage 4 NREM sleep is believed to be the sleep stage during which memories made during the day that are temporarily stored in the Hippocampus are then transferred to permanent storage in the neocortex. Is inhibiting the process of memory transfer from the Hippocampus to the Neocortex for a whole generation of infants really safe? I doubt it. Personally, if one wants to find the cause of the Autism Epidemic one should look no further than the SIDS "Back to Sleep" campaign. Children with Autism also often have an enlarge Hippocampus and problems with memory consolidation.

5:42 PM  

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