You’ve probably heard about tummy time for babies. The reason it is now an issue is that most parents place their baby on its back to sleep due to the decrease in SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in this position. This trend has led to a great increase in children with delayed motor development. Now parents must make an effort to provide tummy time.
I hope to give you some compelling reasons to make tummy time happen and also some ways to make it more enjoyable for both you and your baby.
There are milestones in your baby’s development related to tummy time. Without tummy time, some of these milestones won’t be reached or will only develop much later. So it is worth making tummy time a priority.
Start tummy time in the first week of life. Babies who have tummy time from birth onwards, tolerate it much better later on. It is a very natural position for newborns and helps them begin to stretch out after months in the womb. (Don’t worry about the umbilical cord. In the first two weeks of life, the time before the umbilical cord falls off, babies pull the knees up and rest on their forearms. They won’t rub the umbilical cord.) Lying tummy down on Dad’s chest is a great for both Dad and baby. Dad gets a great boost of bonding hormones and baby gets time and attention from Dad as well as tummy time. You may also burp baby belly down across your knees.
What happens during the first two months? Baby bobs his head up briefly to about 45 degrees. He can turn his head to place the opposite cheek down. Arms and legs straighten out and press down and lift the top of the chest up a little. The most important development during this time is that baby lifts its head to turn from side to side. This is the first time the two sides of the body coordinate together to accomplish a task. To make tummy time more comfortable, use a pillow to support your baby’s chest and shoulders. To make it more fun, you can lie on the floor next to baby while talking and rubbing her. This can be an enjoyable rest for both of you.
At three months, she can hold her head up without bobbing. She will lift her head to look both directions. She can lift her shoulders and the top of her chest while pressing down with her forearms. She may roll from belly to side if she lifts her head too far. During this month her sense of balance and vision begin to coordinate. Your baby will enjoy having different things to look at when turning her head from side to side. Keep it interesting to look both ways. She will benefit by having 30-60 minutes of tummy time each day now. No need to make it all at one time, break it into enjoyable sessions.
At four months, he lifts his head steadily to 90 degrees. He not only lifts his upper chest while pressing down with his forearms, but he will stay like this to play with something interesting. Try squishy balls, stuffed animals and sensory bean bags. He will really enjoy ‘flying’ on your feet as you lie on your back and hold him up with your feet and by his chest. Babies who have more than an hour of tummy time at four months, have been shown to reach their milestones faster than those who spend less time on their tummy.
At five months, he will begin to push his chest off the surface with straight arms. In the next few months he will begin bearing his weight on his open hands to the floor. He may begin intentionally rolling from belly to side. Don’t worry if he has less and less tummy time, as long as you are giving him plenty of floor time to continue to develop his muscles for crawling and eventually walking.
For more links about Tummy Time and other Baby topics see: Babies- Sleep, Eat, Awake