What’s the story with tummy time? I know I’m supposed to do it but my baby hates it! Is it really important?
Great question! I hear this one a lot, since no one wants to see a baby uncomfortable. That said, yes, tummy time is as important as “they” say. The Back to Sleep campaign began in 1994 and drastically reduced the incidence of SIDS related death in this country by educating parents about the importance of putting their children to sleep on their backs.
The challenge that arose out of this positioning was that infants and babies had less time to strengthen head, neck, back and shoulder muscles. As a result, doctors began recommending that all babies have tummy time to remedy the situation. Tummy time and the resulting muscle strength are important for the next stages of a baby’s physical development: lifting, turning and controlling the head and neck, rolling over, sitting, crawling pulling up, and so on.
How Do I Get Started And How Long Should It Last?
With a newborn, you may want to wait until the umbilical cord falls off before you start tummy time. After that, introduce tummy time by laying your baby across your legs a few times a day for 5 minutes or so. As your baby grows, work up to a longer period of time. For some babies, that may be 3 times a day for 10 minutes for some 20 or 30 each time. We’re not looking to torture children, but we do want to make sure that we are giving them the opportunity to strengthen their muscles. Tummy time is a great position to put your child in rather than in a bouncy seat or swing when you need to fold laundry or answer emails.
How Can I Make It More Comfortable and Enjoyable?
There are lots of ways to make tummy time more enjoyable for a baby that may initially seem uncomfortable. Try to do it when your baby isn’t hungry or hasn’t just eaten. That can seem like a short window when your baby is very young, but will get easier as they approach 3 months.
If your baby is crying or fussing initially, try distracting her by turning her over and engaging her, then return her to her stomach. If the crying continues, it’s time to pick her up and try again in a bit. Remember that squeaking – and what I call “springing a leak” sounds -aren’t necessarily sounds of distress.
When your baby is on his tummy, get down to his eye level. Coo and play, make noises, sing, use mirrors or rain sticks, stand a board book up in front of him, or quietly talk to your baby about what’s happening. This is a great opportunity to reflect on your baby’s temperament and use trial and error. Figure out what keeps your baby engaged and go with that.
If your baby still seems unhappy, you can also put her on her belly on your tummy. It counts! Some children enjoy being laid on a bed with their grown-up sitting on the floor in front of them. This neck angle is a little less extreme and can be a great way to ease your baby into tummy time. Another trick is rolling up a hand towel and having your baby lay across it. The towel should be horizontal across the baby’s chest under the armpits, with arms, head and neck forward over the towel. This can also be done with a Boppy Pillow. It’s a new angle and may take some of the pressure off. But remember: never leave your baby alone during tummy time.
The more you expose your baby to tummy time, the easier and more enjoyable it will be. Continue to reflect on what makes it a successful experience for both of you and stick with it. Keep trying – you’ll get there – and your baby’s muscles and development will thank you!
If you have have continued concerns about your child’s discomfort when laying on his belly, reach out to your pediatrician or send me an email. I’m here to help.
Dana Rosenbloom has a master’s degree in Infant and Parent Development and Early Intervention and has been working with children and families for over 10 years. Dana’s Kids offers home, school and web-based services in the areas of parent education, play and behavior therapy, special education services, parent workshops and support groups, and professional development. To learn more about Dana and Dana’s Kids, and to subscribe for her FREE newsletter, please visit www.DanasKids.com. You can also follow Dana on Facebook: www.facebook.com/
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.