Baby development

Why Babies Have a C-Shaped Spine

And the important activities that help it develop into a healthy S-shaped spine

By Kaili Ets

Why Babies Have a C-Shaped Spine

Source: Getty

Unless you’ve recently visited a chiropractor, you probably haven’t thought much about the shape of your spine. As adults, our spines have a subtle S shape. There’s a curve below your neck, then a curve in the other direction through your mid back and another curve at your lower back.

Babies, on the other hand, have a C-shaped spine. Just one big curve. And it makes sense based on the way they’re curled up in the womb.

This is why newborns often curl back up into the fetal position. It’s the most comfortable position for their spines.

How babies’ spines develop

During fetal development, the spine starts out as a straight line. As the baby grows, the spine begins to curve into a C-shape. When they’re born, babies’ spines are not yet fully developed and are still quite flexible. 

The S-shape develops over time, as babies start to hold their heads up, crawl and then walk. But this development won’t just happen on its own. Tummy time is an important part of an infant’s spine development.

New baby curled up Source: Getty

How tummy time helps spine development

When babies lie on their backs or even rest in car seats for long periods of time, it can put pressure on their backs and hinder the muscle development needed to form a healthy spine shape. But don’t panic that yours is spending too much time on their back. 

The safest way for babies to sleep is on their back until they’re about a year old. And babies spend a lot of time sleeping. Just make sure to carry your baby upright in your arms or a carrier to mix things up and keep them close. And of course, incorporate tummy time a few times each day.

Tummy time helps babies stretch and strengthen their neck, shoulders and back muscles. It teaches them to hold their heads up and starts the development of the curve at their neck. It also starts the progression that will lead them to roll, crawl and walk—the first and last step towards adding the final curve to that S-shaped adult spine.

Does your baby hate tummy time? Try upside down tummy time.

mom holding new baby Source: Getty

How to help support healthy spine development

Besides encouraging tummy time, you want your baby to get the nutrients they need for strong bones. These include calcium, which babies will get from breast milk or formula, and vitamin D, which should be administered in drop form each day. Both are considered essential nutrients for humans of all ages.

Learn More with our Tummy Time Workshop!

In partnership with Peeka & Co., join Pediatric Occupational Therapist Kaili Ets from Kaili Ets Family Wellness in this workshop to learn more about tummy time and how to make it more enjoyable, not just for your baby but for you as well.

In this workshop, Kaili covers:

  • What is tummy time and why is it important
  • How long tummy time should be for each day
  • How to support your baby in tummy time
  • Play essentials to make the process more fun
  • What is upside down tummy time and how it can help
  • How tummy time can also help with learning to roll
Author: Kaili Ets is lovingly known as the Holistic Baby Guru. She has a passion for normalizing and bringing clarity around baby sleep, development, reflux, and more. Wife and mom of two, Kaili understands the importance of trusting your mama instincts. She is on a mission to help mamas tune into their intuition and feel like the confident super moms they are. Her wit and humor make her an approachable authority on all things baby-related, as she provides down-to-earth advice that makes everyone feel like they can do this parenting thing! You can find her at or on IG/FB @theholisticbabyguru

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