The Importance of Tummy Time
Tummy time, which is positioning your infant on his tummy to maneuver about his surroundings, is a crucial step that lets your baby work his muscles in his upper body. Engaging in tummy time allows her to practice motor skills, like neck strength and rolling over, and contributes to physical development such as crawling, sitting up and walking.
Over a decade ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending that babies be put on their backs during sleep, which greatly reduced cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but didn’t provide enough opportunity for babies to develop their upper body strength. More infants are developing flat spots on the back of their heads from sleeping on their backs, and tummy time can also help prevent them.
You can begin tummy time with your baby just a few weeks after birth, starting off with only 1-2 minutes at a time, and then building up to a total of 20 minutes a day by time baby is 3-4 months old. You don’t need any special items to practice tummy time, though playmats and toys can help engage babies who are reluctant to start lying on their stomachs. You should provide a soft, safe space for your baby without any hazards present and keep a constant eye on her at all times.
Not only is tummy time a new experience, but it’s hard work for most babies, and some do not enjoy it at first. Start slowly and work your way up. Encourage tummy time by engaging with him and making it an enjoyable experience. Eventually, he will get used to tummy time as part of his daily routine.
Here are some ideas to get your baby started with tummy time:
- Lay on your back and place your baby on your upper torso while facing each other. Talk to her, and she will naturally try to lift up her head to look at you.
- Get down on the floor next to your baby and interact with her--talk, read books, or sing songs. Let her learn that tummy time can be fun.
- Position baby belly-down on a soft surface on the floor, like a blanket or a playmat. If he doesn’t like this at first, roll up a small blanket and tuck it under his chest for support.
- Place brightly colored soft toys on the floor next to him and help him reach for them. Other items like mirrors and soft mobiles are not only entertaining, they encourage him to use his back muscles to interact with them.
Keep safety in mind during tummy time. Don’t put your baby on a couch or bed where it’s possible to roll off. Ensure the tummy time area is free of danger. Don’t leave her unattended; babies can quickly get tired and fall asleep on their stomachs, which increases the risk of suffocation or SIDS.
When your baby is about 4 months old, she should be able to lift her chest off the floor. At 5 or 6 months, he will begin to move around while on his belly and may be able to use his arms to reach in front of him. Once your baby is rolling over on her own, and spending time on her stomach independently, dedicated tummy time is no longer necessary.