In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics launched its successful "Back to Sleep" campaign, which helped reduce the number of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) cases by educating parents on the importance of putting infants to sleep on their backs, rather than on their stomachs. While putting infants to sleep on their backs is still vitally important in reducing infant deaths, according to APTA, many physical therapists believe that there should be more education to parents on the importance of "tummy time" while babies are awake and supervised.
APTA spokesperson Colleen Coulter-O'Berry, PT, MS, PCS, a physical therapist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said flattening of the baby's skull is another side effect of too much time spent on the back. "Since the early 1990s, we have seen a significant decrease in SIDS cases, while simultaneously witnessing an alarming increase in skull deformation," she said. Coulter-O'Berry cites a recent study published in Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal 45(2): 208-16, in which it was reported that several risk factors for misshapen heads were more common among babies born after the "Back to Sleep" initiative. The study, which took place at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, found that prior to 1992, the prevalence of misshapen heads among infants was reportedly 5 percent. In recent years, craniofacial centers and primary care providers reported a dramatic increase of up to 600 percent in referrals for misshapen heads.
She also points out that the combination of babies sleeping on their backs, as well as spending an inordinate amount of time in infant carriers that double
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American Physical Therapy Association