Tummy Time for Your Baby: What It Is and How to Do It
Time on the stomach is a term that refers to the time a baby spends on his stomach, looked and awake in the first months of his life. The practice of targeted time on the tummy as an exercise to help strengthen and develop the muscles of a young baby is relatively common and is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a useful measure in preventing brachycephaly and plagiocephaly, also known as Flat Head Syndrome. For children who already suffer from plagiocephaly or brachycephaly, time spent on the stomach is often a recommended therapeutic strategy in connection with physiotherapy or repositioning.
There is no recommended amount of tummy time for infants, but nearly all doctors agree that it is important to healthy infant development. Since babies spend so much time sleeping on their backs, a little play time on the stomach is necessary. Time on the tummy can begin immediately after birth, although if a child is especially uncomfortable due to their umbilical cord, you can wait until the stump falls off.
Time spent on the abdomen promotes the development of baby’s motor skills by strengthening the muscles of the head, neck, back, and arms. Following the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign, physical therapists began reporting an increase in motor skill development delays in their infant patients as a result of too much time spent lying on their backs while awake. In part, this may result from a lack of caretaker knowledge regarding the need for infants to spend more time on the tummy. In a 2011 study, researchers discovered that 25% of parents were unaware of the need and that 53% of infants received less than or equal to 30 minutes of tummy time per day. In the same study, approximately 35% of babies were intolerant of tummy time.
Many babies dislike being on their tummies at first. It can be uncomfortable, especially when they are too weak to lift their heads independently, and hence can’t enjoy the change in perspective as much as they will when they are older. It doesn’t have to be unpleasant – it can be an interactive and fun activity for parents to do with their baby. By using lights, music, fun toys or making silly faces, you can encourage your little one to enjoy the experience more.
If your baby makes a squawking sound when they are on the tummy, it may not be one of displeasure. They may be trying to move, and the effort required can produce some rather odd noises. Some babies also squawk or squeal with delight. If your baby is genuinely fussy, however, end the tummy time session.
If your child has been diagnosed with a cephalic disorder or flat head syndrome, one of the first steps you can take to correct their skull shape is to begin actively encouraging tummy time. The importance of time spent on the abdomen for the prevention of head disorders has been well documented, and a 2007 study on the effectiveness of repositioning and play-on suggested that the majority of mild to moderate cases of plagiocephaly and brachycephaly can with these methods are avoided or corrected.
How to help your baby get comfortable on his belly?
If your baby just started spending some tummy time, the following steps can help you simplify the process:
- Join your baby, you are currently the most interesting in his world. You will be very motivated for beginners.
- Lots of fun. Few people want to go to the gym. The same can be said for babies – they need entertainment. Provide nice-looking toys, a mirror or other interesting object to reach, or a toy that makes noise and encourages them to turn their heads to see it.
- If your child hates the tummy time, try to keep him above a giant exercise ball and slowly roll him towards you and away from you. Do not let your baby go! The change of perspective can give them an idea of what time it is on the stomach.
- Therapeutic effects are generally observed when three or more sessions of 10 to 15 minutes are administered daily.
- Build up slowly to the full recommended tummy time for your little one, unless they enjoy it. It is exercise, and it takes muscle strength. They will need your patience and help to grow strong enough to play for their full 10-15 minute sessions, so don’t expect too much from them too soon!
- Listen to the cues your baby is giving you. If he or she isn’t happy during tummy time, try to figure out if it has to do with their environment. Maybe they don’t like to be dressed for tummy time, or perhaps they want to have their hands free to play with. Perhaps the surface you chose isn’t to their liking. Experiment until you find something that works for both you and your little one.
- Remember that tummy time helps your little one grow and develop. It might be rough on both of you at first, but in time it will become a fun activity that you can share – especially as your baby begins to scoot, crawl, pull up and walk!
What helped me and my Baby? My Hack for tummy time
As a first-time mom, unfortunately, my baby didn’t have enough tummy time. It happened because everyone kept warning me about the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Hence, I was so scared to leave my baby on his belly, and when I finally noticed that he must be trained, it was already too late. My baby couldn’t stand it as he started crying straight as I would turn him on his stomach! It was really frustrating, he was already 6-month-old, lying on his back all day and I didn’t know what to do.
I have started building up slowly a full tummy time workout with my baby. At first, he was crying a lot and it was hard. I took him to a baby massage which was nice, and he practiced his tummy time there while I was massaging his back. After consulting with the teacher, I bought a special pillow that made it easier for my baby to lie on his tummy while his upper body was a little bit higher than the rest of his body. Another recommended pillow that I have found was these two – Baby Gym & Activity Musical Play Mat and Vtech Tummy Time Discovery Pillow, which I bought, and they added more interactive activities for my baby while he was on his tummy.
I have followed the tips above and combined it with different pillows and toys, kept on training my baby every day to be on his tummy, and it worked! All you need is to be patient and if you can, start training tummy time as early as possible.
When should we do tummy time?
Make sure your baby is not tired or hungry if you put it on his stomach. However, do not place it on a full stomach, which could be uncomfortable. Wait about an hour after feeding to prevent sputum or infantile acid reflux.
When he begins to cry – even if it is only a minute – try to convince him a little longer by talking to him or playing with him. If he has enough, take it back and try again later.
Observe if your baby likes to be massaged while he is sitting on his stomach. If he does, it can help to feel at ease in this position.