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Baby development: This is the position that most encourages the motor development of infants

Child development considerations make up a large part of our approach teaching baby swimming and helping parents to best nurture their child's development.

The following article is one such consideration we take into account in our swimming lessons programs, philosophy and approach.

A scientific review of 16 studies shows yet again that laying your babies on their stomachs while awake is the best thing you can do for their development.

A smiling baby is laying on his stomach on a bed next to colourful toys
A cornerstone of motor development. A baby is lying on their stomach.

If you have a baby at home, the best thing you can do for their motor development is to lie down on their stomach. This conclusion was reached (again) by researchers who conducted a systematic review of studies, which will soon be published in the journal Pediatrics.

The recommendation to place young babies at a prone position while awake and under supervision is not new and has long been known and reinforced by many researches, as a vital activity that helps babies develop and strengthen their shoulder belt, neck and core muscles. This in turn enables them to lift their heads and then to rise, crawl on their belly, and discover the world around them. 

Abdominal control is considered to be the cornerstone of motor development.

Researchers at the University of Wollongong, Australia, looked at 16 different published studies that examined the effects of supine lying on the motor development of infants. 

Cumulatively in all of these studies, 4,237 infants from eight different countries in the world were tested. 

Their conclusion was that "tummy time" is closely related to the development of gross motor skills as well as the general development of the baby, and has a particularly positive effect on the onset of the baby's movement in the form of flipping and crawling.

A newborn baby with red spots and exposed skin lying on their stomach on a bed
It is advisable to start practicing "belly time" from day one. A newborn lying on their stomach.

Staying on the abdomen during wakefulness also improves conditions such as flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly, a syndrome due to prolonged reclining of infants on their backs and exerting pressure on the back of their skull). 

However, within the plethora of tasks involving the care of a small baby, changing diapers, feeding, putting to sleep, and bathing, parents sometimes forget to make a dedicated time for the baby to stay on the stomach.

"Occasionally, 'tummy time' is pushed down by parents' priorities," said Dr. Jennifer Shaw, medical editor of the American Academy of Paediatrics, adding that it is precisely because of this that it is important to dedicate time windows every day. Do this for a few minutes at a time, so that your baby will have a half-hour "tummy time" every day. "It will really have a very significant impact on how your baby learns to crawl and flip," Dr. Shaw said.

Measuring head circumference for baby
Since the directive came out to put babies to sleep only on the back, there has been an increase in unusual head shapes.

In 1992, following a rise in crib deaths, the U.S. Academy of Paediatrics made a sweeping recommendation to put babies to sleep on their backs rather than the abdomen. However, at the same time, it also had a certain negative effect that doctors began to notice - babies lying on their backs tended to develop motor skills more slowly and there was also an increase in infants with unusual head shapes.

The thing is, babies don't always like being on their stomachs, some of them are harder and tiring and they start to gripe and then cry. 

Therefore, the experts recommend to start practicing 'tummy time' very early. 

How early?

From the day you return home with the newborn from the hospital. 

For starters, you can settle for a few minutes a day and gradually increase the periods when the baby or baby is on their stomach until it reaches about 30 daily (not necessarily consecutive) and then an hour.

crawling baby hands on off-white fluffy carpet
Baby crawling. It all starts with lying on your stomach.

In the Australian study, researchers wrote that 'tummy time' could allow parents to see their children "achieve small but significant goals", including developmental goals that are considered milestones in human development: the ability to lift a head, the ability to move their arms and legs and to move their attention to what is around them in a wider angel.

They added that their review further suggests that 'tummy time' also contributes to the cardiovascular health of infants and improves their BMIs.

The World Health Organization also recognises the importance of 'tummy time' and this is also why it considers it the most recommended exercise for infants up to the age of one year.


University of Wollongong, Australia, 2020:


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