If you are a new parent, it won’t be long before you start hearing people talk about “Tummy Time”. This catchphrase was coined in the 90’s when the Back to Sleep Campaign was launched and babies were no longer spending much time in the prone, or face-down, position. While instances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) decreased dramatically, babies were missing out on time to develop foundational developmental skills. Child development professionals and pediatricians began to educate parents on the importance of placing infants on their tummies for short periods of time throughout the day. Currently, the AAP recommends that young infants spend about 90 min on their tummies per day, and research shows that babies who spend time on their tummies while awake are more likely to achieve certain motor milestones.
Most parents assume that means you put the baby on his tummy and that is the end of that, right? For many of us, the whole tummy time experience wasn’t as simple as it sounds. My daughter HATED tummy time and would scream her head off when we tried to do it. Luckily, I was able to rely on some colleagues of mine to give us some pointers. Here is the lowdown on why Tummy Time is so important, and some tips for ways to make it easier (and more enjoyable for everyone involved)!
What does Tummy Time do?
- Develops muscles of the head, neck, shoulders and back
- Helps to prevent motor delays and conditions, including plagiocephaly and torticollis
- Allows for visual exploration of the environment
- Encourages isolation of limbs from trunk
- Allows for babies to discriminate between items that are close and items that are far away
- Builds up strength in the upper body and hands that will lead to development of fine motor skills (such as handwriting!)
- Helps develop the vestibular system (important for balance!)
Tips and Tricks
- Ease into tummy time– start by holding your baby upright on your shoulder. Once she is comfy with that, try lounging back at an incline and let her try tummy time on your chest. From there, you can try to lie flat on your back and see how she tolerates that. My daughter grew to love doing tummy time on my lap, laying across my legs. I allowed her to get used to gradual position changes so that being prone on the floor didn’t feel like such an extreme change.
- Use a prop – Some babies respond better to tummy time when using an exercise ball, rolled up towel or nursing pillow. (Do not leave baby unattended when propped up)
- Join the fun! – You try lying on your tummy too! Face your baby and softly talk or sing to him. This might calm him, but will also prompt your little guy to work those neck muscles to better see your smiling face!
- Set up some entertainment – Place a couple of toys in a rainbow arc in front of your baby. Items in close proximity will be more motivating to look at than items far away, which might keep baby’s attention for longer. Down the road, she can reach and grab at toys, or even scoot towards them! I also love propping up books to look at!
- Use a mirror – Not only are babies motivated by their own reflections, but you will also encourage some valuable social and language skills as well. Baby can work on recognizing facial expressions, imitation, and cause and effect- all while getting those tummy time minutes in!
My Favorite Tummy Time Tools:
Here is a great blog post, written by Wendi McKenna who is a pediatric physical therapist. She takes you through the progression of tummy time from birth to seven months, and does a great job illustrating all of the important skills gained along the way!
Do you have burning questions or hot topic suggestions for our blog? Send them my way at ElizabethM@skillbuildersllc.com.
-Elizabeth Clark McKenzie, MS, CCC-SLP