Can Babies Lie On Their Front?

In recent years I’ve found that parents are particularly reluctant to lie their babies on their front. But doing so helps to nurture their muscular development, and can help to protect them against plagiocephaly, or ‘flat head syndrome’.

Here I discuss and demonstrate some exercises that can reduce the amount of time your baby spends on its back.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

The reason why parents are reluctant to lie babies on their front may be due to misinterpretation of the very successful ‘Safe-to-Sleep’ programme. Though this programme recommends putting babies on their backs to sleep, it also recommends putting them on their front to play.

‘Safe-to-Sleep’ evolved in response to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and has contributed, along with other recommendations, to a reduction of SIDS.

I have found that many parents consequently associate placing their baby on its front as being dangerous. The SIDS campaign’s message — to place the baby on its back to sleep and FRONT to play — seems somehow to have got lost. Perhaps it’s in the word ‘play’ that the problem arises; a newborn doesn’t ‘play’ in the same way that a 12-week-old does, so why put a newborn on its front?

The Importance of ‘Tummy Time’

There are many organisations which positively advocate laying wakeful babies on their front, for what’s known as Tummy Time. This should be a normal and routine part of a baby's day.

Babies that spend time on their front will help to develop the necessary muscles in their backs, especially the upper back and neck. This also helps to support head, neck and eye control and movement, all of which are important for developing more complex movement patterns and neurology in the first year. These include:

  • Rolling
  • Creeping
  • Crawling
  • Sitting
  • Standing up
  • Cruising around furniture
  • Walking unaided

It’s an incredible first year and developing good balance through time on their front and back underpins it all.

Plagiocephaly

Plagiocephaly, or ‘flat head syndrome’, is often caused by babies being left to lie on their backs for long periods of time. This is a common problem, and in most cases is not a major cause for concern. However, it can be avoided by encouraging your baby to regularly lie on its front. At the bottom of this page, you can find a variety of exercises to help with this, and to support your baby’s muscular development.

Baby Muscle Development

The following series of photographs were shot with the aim of encouraging parents to make it a priority for babies of all ages to have time on their front, not only for Tummy Time, but to make the most of the many other opportunities throughout the day for babies to exercise and develop their back muscles in this way. The aim of the photographs is to show a variety of ways of holding, carrying, lifting and playing with babies especially in the first 3 months of life. 

Make An Appointment

Berkeley Centre Health,
3 Berkeley Square,
Clifton,
Bristol
BS8 1HL