“Tummy time” is the phrase used for when you intentionally place your infant on their stomach for a supervised period of time.
When a baby is placed on their stomach it encourages them to use and strengthen the muscles in their neck and back. Your baby will need to practice strengthening these muscles before they can sit up or crawl. Encouraging your baby to spend time this way is also good for their head development. If a baby spends too much time lying on their back, they will develop a flat spot on the back of their head (positional plagiocephaly).
Some babies really love tummy time, while others hate it. If your baby cries every time you place them on their stomach you’re not alone. Keep in mind that what you’re asking them to do is a really hard work out for them. Their entire life is one giant physical therapy session, as they strengthen and teach their muscles to do different things. If you’ve ever been in physical therapy, you can relate, it’s a lot of hard work!
Here are 5 tips to help your baby enjoy tummy time:
• Keep the sessions short
Start your baby off with a short 3-minute session. As their muscles strengthen you’ll be able to lengthen the sessions. Even though they are short, try to make sure your baby is getting in 2 to 3 tummy time sessions every day. Practice makes perfect!
• Engage and play with your baby
Your baby will enjoy it more if you get down on the ground in front of them to play. Placing a toy in front of them or just smiling will make it more enjoyable for your baby.
You should never leave your baby unsupervised while they’re on tummy time. They need someone to monitor them to make sure they are breathing well on their stomach. Especially if your baby was premature they could potentially struggle to breathe when placed on their stomach.
• Choose firm but soft surface
Lay a blanket down on either carpet or a rug; try to avoid doing tummy time on hard surfaces such as tile. Your baby is working on strengthening their neck and back muscles and sometimes they will give out suddenly, just like when your muscles get too tired lifting weights at the gym. Your baby’s face might suddenly hit the floor without warning. It can be startlingly unpleasant if their head hits a hard surface.
Do not prop your baby up on a pillow. This might seem like a good idea, but it will actually inhibit your baby’s ability to move and strengthen their muscles. Your baby’s reflexes will also develop better if they are allowed to push their limbs off a hard surface, like the floor, rather than a cushioned one.
• Place a mirror in front of your baby
Baby’s love to look at themselves and seeing their reflection in a mirror is very exciting. It will further improve their motor skill and muscles development as they reach out to touch their reflection.
• Choose a successful time for each session
Don’t start tummy time when your baby is hungry or tired, this will most likely just make them sad. Choose a time that your baby is generally happy and content. Trying after a feeding, a nap or a diaper change are a few times that will probably we successful for your child.
• Try different things
Babies can get bored. Sometimes changing where or how you do tummy time will make it more fun for your baby. Try doing tummy time outside or in different rooms. Place your baby on blankets that have different textures. They might enjoy feeling or looking at something different. Take your baby’s clothes off. They might enjoy their tummy touching a soft and fuzzy blanket.
Having your baby engage in tummy time is very important for his or her development. It is not just good for their muscles. It also helps them develop motor skills as they engage with the world around them in a different way.