When I first became a nurse, about 30 years ago, I never saw babies with flat heads. Now, I see them frequently. WHY? It seems that when the SIDS foundation and the “Back to Sleep” campaign started, parents interpreted their instructions of placing baby on its back to sleep, as NEVER put baby on its tummy at all. Parents stopped putting their baby on its tummy, even while awake and playing. This effect led to over a decade of babies with flat heads and developmental lags. What did the medical community learn? Tummy time is critical to build strong muscles. Tummy time is also important to develop a strong core for movement and support. It is important to brain development, as well as forming a well-rounded head. Lack of good strength can affect development in many ways. Babies a few decades ago used to sleep and play on their tummies. All this tummy time helped build a strong and developmentally talented baby.
The SIDS foundation became aware of the this problem. Now their campaign states “Back to sleep, and TUMMY awake.”
When parents ask me about this, I advise as much tummy time as possible from the first weeks. Hold baby facing toward the floor while in your arms... instead of face up. Put baby on your tummy while on the couch, and then, lay back. All this exposure to different directions of gravity will make for a strong and well-developed infant. Try and avoid placing baby in too many "containers" (such as the popular “exersaucer,” walker, or doorway jumper. These baby holders are often used by parents before a baby has strong torso muscles. Thus, they can encourage a baby to stand on his feet before he naturally can do this himself. Weight bearing for long periods can later, potentially, cause low back issues and even scoliosis of the spine. If one pays attention to different positions from the start, we can help prevent flat headed babies!
Think of all the hours your baby spends on her back sleeping, in the car seat, and on the floor. Try and balance this BACK time with more FRONT (tummy) time.