Belly Time

The mortality rate from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) has decreased since the 1992 revision of the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) policy statement on the prevention of SIDS. In that statement, the recommendation was to place all infants under a year to sleep on their backs rather than on their bellies or on their sides.  Historically, the prone sleeping position has been associated with SIDS at a much higher rate than the back or side position.  In the policy statement revisions since 1992, the side position has been eliminated as a safe sleeping position for infants due to the cases where an infant has turned prone from their side in some cases of SIDS.

There are many contributing factors considered in evaluating the unknown cause of SIDS including a difference in the brain chemistry of SIDS infants on autopsy and a higher incidence of SIDS in preterm infants.  The incidence of SIDS drops after the first six months of life, but remains a concern for the first year of life.  Since it is not know which infants are at risk, and with the risk of suffocation due to soft bedding, blankets, and especially, sleeping with a parent or sibling on the bed or couch, also considered contributing factors to SIDS, all infants are considered at risk.  Excellent information supporting a back to sleep position for all infants at all times for the first year, can be found on the AAP website at the address noted below.

See a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics and their information on child sleeping issues.

However, all that back sleeping has a consequence. Mothers frequently tell me they cannot get their infants comfortable on their bellies when the infants are awake. Lack of belly time interferes with the baby’s motor development.

Time spent lying on their bellies is an important step in babies’ development of the muscles of their spine and torso.  A baby develops the ability to pick up his head from being on his belly.

Lifting her head while prone develops the baby’s muscles along her spine and leads to her being able to sit and balance.

A baby moving while his belly is against a surface stimulates the nerves and muscles along the front of his body and this stimulation leads to the integration of the right and left sides of his brain and  body and the baby moves forward to creeping and crawling.

If a baby is carried constantly by the mother throughout her day as in a sling, the baby will get the same stimulation, but even better, since the surface against his body is also moving.  This will lead to good coordination in the baby. But the baby’s belly must be against the mother’s body as well as carried in a front sling to get the much needed stimulation along the front of his body.  A firm padded surface such as a carpeted floor is a good substitute.  However, the baby will look for the mother’s face when the baby is on her belly, to have as lively an interaction as she would have if she were on her back or held upright. As she learns to be easily on her belly, she will develop head balance there and will be content with playing with her toys while prone. For an excellent video on the baby’s development in the first year see resource page.

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Interview Part 3

In the last segment of my interview with Robert Rickover, I talk more about preterm (premature) and brain-injured babies:

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Interview Part 2

Here I discuss newborn babies and their parents:

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Interview

Robert Rickover of AlexanderAudio.com interviewed me recently, and gave me a chance to talk about my work. This is the first installment, in which I explain my background and what brought me to Alexander Technique.

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Preterm Babies and Breathing

In utero, the lungs require 37 weeks of gestation to be ready for the outside world.
Preterm infants, therefore, are at a disadvantage when it comes to breathing in that they are still developing their lungs at the same time they need to use them to breathe.
Even if they were born just one month shy of their due date, “preemies” have to finish the fetal development of their lungs outside the womb.

Because of this situation, preterm infants often breathe differently than full term infants. They may breathe faster, and even bear down slightly when breathing. When they are feeding and need to hold their breath in order to swallow, they  breathe a little faster and bear down a little more. This extra effort is tiring, so some preemies tend to gulp instead taking the time to smoothly suck, swallow, then breathe. Gulping their feedings leads to more air in the babies’ stomachs and trouble burping. They then feel full before they have finished feeding, and may fall asleep. Sometimes they expend so much energy they are too tired to take their next feeding and end up losing instead of gaining weight.

Preterm infants often have inconsistent feeding patterns. Mothers tell me their infants will feed very quickly for some feedings and then at other times take thirty minutes to feed the same amount. They also take less per feed than other infants their same (adjusted) age. This results in more time spent feeding and more feedings per day and a protracted time parents may be awake for feedings throughout the night.

Working with the underlying breathing issue, I help infants to release the pattern of fast breathing and bearing down. Once the babies learn they can breathe just fine without this habit, they have are able to take full consistent feedings in less time without gulping and swallowing air.

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