April 16, 2009
As President of the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA's) Section on Pediatrics, I must comment on the remark made by the mother in Pacific Palisades, CA, printed in the recent story "Bad Parents and Proud of It: Moms and Dads Confess."
According to the parent, she was advised by a physical therapist to "push" her child down to encourage him or her to crawl before walking for "the sake of their development." It is true that most babies crawl before they walk. However, some typically developing children do not. There is no conclusive evidence to indicate that a baby must crawl before he or she walks, although some believe that crawling builds strength, coordination and use of both sides of the body (bilateral integration). If a baby has begun to walk, then he or she is going to continue walking, and that is fine.
Nevertheless, we do advise that all children receive dedicated time on their stomachs – while awake and supervised -- to prevent certain conditions, including torticollis (when the head is constantly turned to one side) and plagiocephaly (when a baby develops a flattened area on the back of the head). Rather than "pushing" the baby down, physical therapists recommend that parents encourage "tummy time," or supervised fun, safe activities that encourage babies to play and move on their stomachs.
Readers can find more "tummy time" tools in the Consumer Tips section on www.moveforwardpt.com.
Sheree York, PT, MS, PCS
Section on Pediatrics, American Physical Therapy Association