When it comes to baby’s development, tummy time is an extremely important step to other milestones ahead. With all the focus on putting baby to sleep on his back, it’s easy to forget that tummy time is just as important. Though it may be difficult to see at first, all of the little wiggles and attempts at half-lifts are contributing to baby’s development in major ways.
What is tummy time?
Tummy time is just that – time that baby spends on his stomach while awake and supervised. By placing baby on his tummy, you encourage him to lift his head, which helps strengthen his head, neck and shoulder muscles and boost motor skills.
Aside from offering you with a great way to bond with your baby, there are some major benefits to tummy time:
- Boosts gross motor skills
- Engages lesser-used muscle groups
- Helps baby master head control
- Alleviates gas pain
- Exposes baby to a different environment
When should you start tummy time?
There is no prescription for when tummy time should begin; however, it is suggested that parents get an early start. Babies born at full term with no health issues can start tummy time as soon as their first day home. Don’t be surprised if baby shows some dislike at first, it’s typical for baby to be a bit cranky when first starting. Just as you’re adjusting to parenthood, they’ll need some time adjusting to a new position and activity. A mommy pro tip is to start with a few short sessions and then gradually increase frequency and length.
How to do tummy time
Tummy time is pretty simple and straightforward, making it an easy activity for mom and baby. Here’s how to get started:
- Set up a soft, safe space and lay baby down. A blanket or tummy time mat on a firm surface works best. The floor is ideal; however, you can also lay baby facedown on your stomach or chest.
- If baby doesn’t respond to tummy time on his own, try to engage him. Seeing your face can be incentive enough for baby to try and lift his head and start to wiggle around.
- Start with short periods of two to three minutes and increase with time as baby responds and grows. When starting out, three to five sessions a day is ideal, but follow what works best for you and your baby.
Getting the Most out of Tummy Time
Newborn to 2 months
Activity: Place baby on his stomach. If he cannot lift his head, place your hand on his bottom to shift the weight from the upper body. If he is still unable to lift his head, place a rolled towel under his chest or place him over your leg. Remember, there is always the option to lay baby on your chest, offering a secure, cuddly feeling while encouraging a head lift.
Major Benefit: Your baby will develop better head control and upper body strength, while learning to lift his head and neck.
Activity: Your baby has gained more back and neck strength and, when placed on his tummy, can prop himself up using his forearms. If additional support is needed, a Boppy pillow or rolled towel can be helpful. Enhance tummy time by making it fun for the both of you by introducing toys or mirrors to encourage weight shifting and reaching. By this age, your baby should now be able to interact with the environment at eye level.
Major Benefit: As your baby gets stronger, he will push up using his arms to reach and play. This prepares the baby for future activities like sitting and crawling.
Activity: Now your baby has become stronger in both the upper and lower back, play games, such as “airplane” by lifting your baby up with support only on the hips and/or waist. Another variation is to rest baby on your bent legs and move your legs up and down.
Major Benefit: Develops full-body strength, which will help baby to crawl and explore his surroundings.
What if baby still hates tummy time? Don’t stress and don’t give up! Just like many things with small children, it’s ok to take a step back, take a break and come back to tummy time at a later date. For more help, feel free to contact one of our Pediatric Therapists at 225-924-8450.