"Thank you, Stephanie, for the opportunity to write a guest post for your blog. We share a passion to teach parents and others about the importance of infants being on their tummies.
Many facets of human development are dependent on infants being in the prone position. One important, yet often overlooked, facet is sensory development. We all learn in preschool about our senses. Those senses are the way we learn about our world and our place in it!
Our sense of hearing has two components, 1) the structure of the ear receiving sound appropriately and sending those signals to the brain and, 2) processing of those signals once received in the brain (commonly called auditory processing). Both are stimulated for an infant by being on their tummy. Foundational reflexes that are available ONLY in the prone position are developed during infancy. Development of bi-aural hearing (using both ears simultaneously) is done on the stomach.
If an infant is not overdressed and is on their tummy moving and exploring their world, the opportunities for “tactile stimulation” are almost limitless. They spend time flexing their fingers or seemingly “scratching” the floor, the blanket, the sofa and anything else they can reach. Rolling around on the floor or in the grass gives a whole-body experience to our sense of feeling. This also stimulates our sense of balance—which relates directly back to hearing and auditory processing. If you have seen the popular movie “A Christmas Story”, you may remember when the younger brother has been almost mummified in winter clothing as he walks to school. On his way, he falls into the snow and cannot move. He can’t feel a thing, and thus he can’t move! We can’t move what we can’t feel. (Just try to walk after sitting on your foot too long!) Allowing our children to have their arms/legs/feet/hands bare as much as possible while prone is one of the best ways to encourage their mobility and their interaction with their world.
Babies are born not seeing very well. Their vision is not yet developed---and they do that developing best----you guessed it----on their bellies. They can begin to understand the images around them within a very short distance—and it is easiest for them when it is “finite”. In other words, it is easier for them to see the short distance to the ground from their belly, than it would be for them to be on their back and try to see an object above their heads. It would be very easy to lose focus on an object in the vast expanse over their heads when supine---the ground gives a definite endpoint.
Children in populations where tummy time doesn’t happen, don’t develop the ability to focus or “converge” their eyes on a single object. The ability to converge their vision is the foundation for depth perception.
Parents sometimes think the senses just automatically develop, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Time in the prone position has far-reaching effects that last a lifetime---starting today!
Guestpost written by Donna Bateman, a Neurodevelopmental Specialist and the mother of eight children. Mrs. Bateman knows the importance of tummy time and understands the negative consequences throughout the developing years if this step to development is denied. You can read more about her and her practice (Parents With Purpose) at http://www.parentswithpurpose.com/ ."