The importance of Tummy Time

As a parent or guardian of a newborn, you will frequently read how important it is for babies to have “tummy time”.  It sounds simple enough in the literature, but sometimes parents will give up because their babies will wail each time you lay them on their tummy. So for this blog, I wanted to provide you with a list of reasons why tummy time is so important, include tips to help make tummy time a success, and finally give encouragement to keep persevering until your little one can enjoy playing on their tummy.

There are many reasons why tummy time is so important for development.  In this position, babies will build up arm, neck and back strength to help with crawling, walking and later with sitting in a desk at school.  They will develop hand-eye coordination as they learn to reach for toys which will help with self-feeding and later with playing ball.  They will improve sensory/body awareness which will help with attention, coordination and emotional regulation.  Finally, tummy time will help prevent the development of flat spots on the head (plagiocephaly) and tightening of the neck muscles on one side (positional torticollis).

According to the National Institutes of Health, babies should start tummy time the day they come home from the hospital. It is recommended that they receive 3-5 minutes 2-3 times a day and gradually increase to a total of one hour per day by the age of 4 months. You will want to perform tummy time when your baby is happy (but not immediately after eating). Always supervise your baby when they are on their tummy and stop the session before they become too fussy.  If your baby does not like tummy time, you may try various positions to acclimate them. One of my favorites is tummy to tummy. For this technique, either sit up or lie flat on your back and lay the baby on your chest. You may also lay them over your lap or put them in the “football hold” over your forearm. When they are over your lap or arm, they may enjoy a gentle bounce or sway.

Once they are able to tolerate lying on the floor, it is important to try to make the activity enjoyable.  You may achieve this with play and by using toys or tummy time mats. Most of the tummy time mats have toys, mirrors and a pillow to place under the arms and chest.  These features will make tummy time easier and more interesting. When your baby is not on their tummy, it also important to avoid prolonged time (more than 30 minutes at a time when awake) in baby carriers, bouncers, car seats, swings, ect. as these limit movement and can delay development.

The most important tip is play WITH your baby. You can sing songs, talk to them, and play with toys together. This will make the experience enjoyable for your child, help develop language skills, and strengthen the bond between the two of you.  Even with all of these tips, know that it may not be easy.  But keep on trying, the benefits are worth it.

References

  1. How Tummy Time Should Look. www.pathways.org/tummytime/abilities
  2. Babies need tummy time! https://www1.nichd.nih.gov/sts/about/Pages/tummytime.aspx

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