Tummy Time For Babies
If you’re pregnant or have a new baby, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about tummy time.
You may be wondering what exactly tummy time is, why it’s important, and how to do it successfully.
Tummy time is just as simple as it sounds. It’s time that your baby spends on their tummy. It’s vital that your baby has this time, and it provides many great benefits.
It’s important to understand why tummy time is important as well as the best ways to implement it.
The Importance of Tummy Time for Your Baby
Spending time in different positions throughout the day is vital to your little one’s development.
Babies used to sleep in many different positions.
However, ever since it was discovered that the safest position for your baby to sleep in was on their back, the amount of time babies spend on their back has gone up while time on their tummy has gone dramatically down.
This is great for sleeping as the recommendation of putting your baby to sleep on their back has lowered the number of SIDs cases.
Unfortunately, it is not so great for your baby’s development to spend all of their time on their back.
This is where tummy time comes in.
Making sure that your baby gets time on their tummy throughout the day helps to balance out all the time they spend on their backs for sleeping.
#1 Muscle Development
One of the great and important things about tummy time is the way that it helps your baby’s muscles to develop.
When a baby lays on their back, they aren’t in a position that helps them develop their neck muscles or many of the other muscles of the upper body.
By spending time on their belly, your bub will naturally start to try raising their head to look around. This will strengthen and help to develop the muscles in your baby’s neck.
As your baby gets stronger, they will start to prop up on their arms and begin to build more strength in their arm and shoulder muscles as well as the muscles in their upper back.
#2 Brain Development
In addition to helping with physical development, tummy time can also be beneficial for your baby’s developing brain.
When they are on their tummy, your baby has a completely different view of the world. Experiencing their environment from different perspectives helps them to learn about their surroundings and is beneficial for mental development.
The challenges your baby is faced with during tummy time can also prove to be helpful in aiding brain development.
#3 Skull Development
One of the problems associated with your baby spending too much time on their back is improper development of the skull. Babies’ bones are very soft compared to the bones of adults.
So, if your baby is spending all of their time on their back, they may develop a flat spot on the back of their skull.
By practicing tummy time regularly, you can prevent this from happening and encourage proper skull development.
#4 Precursor to Crawling
One more of the wonderful benefits that comes with tummy time is that it helps baby to develop the important skills needed for crawling which will eventually lead to walking as well.
Not only does it develop the muscles that your baby needs to learn to crawl but it also helps them with learning good balance and being used to being in the right position to crawl.
When Should Tummy Time Start?
Tummy time can actually start as soon as your baby is born.
In fact, your baby’s first tummy time might even be in his or her first few moments of life. It is a normal and beneficial position to have your newborn baby laying tummy down on your chest right after birth.
It’s ideal that you do begin tummy time within the first days of your baby’s life so that they can get used to the position and begin early muscle development right away.
Continue to practice tummy time until your baby is able to crawl well.At that point, your baby will naturally put themselves in different positions that will help them continue to develop properly.
How Often Should Tummy Time be Practiced?
How often you do tummy time will depend on your baby and their preferences.
Ideally, you should try to do tummy time at least 3 times a day, but more is definitely good too. The length of your baby’s tummy time will also depend on them.
Some babies love tummy time right off the bat, while others may not like being placed on their tummies. If your baby enjoys tummy time, let them have longer periods of tummy time more often. If your baby starts fussing and crying and obviously does not want to be on their tummy, you should pick them up.
Don’t force tummy time on them if they really hate it. Keep trying though; even getting in a few seconds at a time is better than nothing.
Eventually, your baby will start to tolerate being on their tummy and will likely even come to really enjoy their tummy time.
Alternatives to Tummy Time on the Floor
Often times, tummy time is thought of as floor time.
The floor can be a great place to practice tummy time, but it is definitely not the only place that you can do tummy time with your bub.
You may especially want to consider alternatives to tummy time on the floor if your baby specifically doesn’t like tummy time very much.
#1 Tummy Time on Your Chest
One way to help your baby practice tummy time but still feel comfy and secure is to lean back or lay down and place your baby on your chest tummy down.
This has all the benefits of tummy time, but also helps your baby to still feel nice and safe.
#2 Tummy Time on Your Bed
Another place that is good for tummy time is on your bed.
You can lay your baby tummy down in the centre of the bed and stay there with him or her while they have their tummy time.This can be a little comfier not just for them, but for you as well.
#3 Tummy Time in Your Lap
While your baby is still a very small newborn, you can let them have their tummy time in your lap.
Just sit with your knees together and lay them across your legs tummy down. This helps your baby feel safer and more secure just like when you let them have tummy time on your chest.
#4 Wearing Your Baby for Tummy Time
Babywearing has many benefits, including providing tummy time for your baby.
It isn’t exactly the same as regular tummy time but it provides most of the same benefits like helping to build neck control, seeing the world from a different perspective, and preventing your baby from developing a flat spot on the back of their head.
Tips for Successful Tummy Time
Tummy time seems pretty straightforward, and it is.
You simply place your baby on their tummy to help them get all the benefits that come with tummy time.
There are, however, some important additional things you can do to help have the most successful and beneficial tummy time possible.
#1 Lay Your Baby on Something Soft
You definitely want to make sure your baby is doing tummy time somewhere safe and comfy.
If your baby is doing tummy time on the floor, you should put down a thick blanket or mat first. This provides comfort your baby to help them tolerate tummy time longer, but it also provides protection for your baby.
Your baby may roll over during tummy time and if they are on just the hard floor, they may hit their head and injure themselves or at very least be rather shaken up from the experience.
#2 Comfort Your Baby
To help tummy time to last longer, you can try comforting measures for your baby during their tummy time. You may try stroking their back or touching their hands.
Try getting in front of them so that they can see you.
You can lay next to your baby too. Another idea is to sing to your baby to comfort them through tummy time.
#3 Play with Your Baby
It’s also a wonderful idea to play with your baby during their tummy time.
You can get safe toys and move them around in front of them to encourage them to look around and turn their head in different directions.
You could even lay a book in front of your baby and read to them.
If you have an unbreakable mirror, try holding it in front of them or laying it down in front of them so that they can see their reflection.
#4 Prop Your Baby Up
Some babies that don’t like their tummy time very much may have an easier time and tolerate it better if you prop them up a little bit.
There are some small pillows made specifically for this.
If you don’t have one of these, and prefer not to purchase one, just use a rolled-up towel or small blanket. Place it underneath your baby’s chest and underarms.
Make sure that if you prop your baby up like this that you watch them extra closely to prevent any accidents.
Many babies find tummy time incredibly enjoyable, but every baby is different.
Some babies just don’t like being on their tummy for whatever reason. If your baby doesn’t like their tummy time and you’re struggling to get it in, don’t give up.
If your baby is unhappy when you put them on their tummy, don’t force them to stay that way, but don’t quit trying either. For now, you can keep doing tummy time on your chest or in a baby carrier, but continue to try placing your baby down for tummy time on other surfaces as well.
Eventually, your baby will come to tolerate it better.
The main goal is to just keep your baby from being in the same position of on their back all the time. If you can at least manage to keep them off of their back for a good chunk of the day, you’re doing great!