If you’re a parent, you’ve inevitably heard of “tummy time”. However, you may not really know why its so important for your baby in terms of his or her development. Read on, my friend.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) continues to advise parents that the safest position for babies to sleep is on their backs. This has been shown to greatly reduce the occurrence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, as babies spend more time on their backs, pediatricians and health practitioners have noted an increase in misshapen heads (cranial asymmetry) and a flattening effect on back of the head called positional plagiocephaly.
Enter tummy time.
Tummy time helps to get babies off their backs for periods of time (under supervision, of course!) giving the occipital area or back of the head a break from all that back sleeping. It also helps baby develop neck, back and shoulder muscles they need to meet gross motor milestones such as rolling over, crawling and sitting up.
Tummy time can start as early as when baby comes home from the hospital but many parents wait until the umbilical cord stump has fallen off for baby’s comfort. The current recommendation is at least 20 minutes per day with gradual increases as your baby gets older. I almost always recommend 30 minutes per day to my patients. Remember, this doesn’t have to be all at once and can be broken up into shorter segments starting from just a few minutes a session.
Here are a few tips I give to parents to encourage happy tummy play:
- Engage baby in tummy time when she’s content and alert. Avoid insisting on it when she’s fussy. Forcing tummy time will cause a negative association for your baby.
- Try different tummy time positions – holding baby on your chest while lying flat, placing baby on a firm safe surface, holding baby on your forearms (football hold), propping him up on a small pillow or blanket or lying baby on your lap. To make things more interesting, try tummy time on a exercise ball. (see my video on tummy time on an exercise ball here or check below).
- Interact with your baby during tummy time. Get down on the floor and talk to, play with, sing to and be silly with your baby! This will help distract baby and keep them from becoming frustrated.
- Consistency is key! Every bit of a tummy time makes a difference. Try to make it a fun part of your baby’s day. If you have done plenty of tummy time with baby but are concerned they are still not meeting milestones, bring your concerns to the attention of your pediatrician or health care provider.
- If your child consistently fusses during tummy time, it may be time to bring him or her in to see a chiropractor. Often spinal misalignments resulting during birth may contribute to your wee one being fussy or crying during tummy time.
Recently, I’ve tried doing tummy time with William in his Dockatot (one of my fave baby essentials). I just position him on his belly in the Dockatot with his arms and belly over the bumper and place an interesting toy or mirror in front of him and he’s happy! Easy breezy tummy time!
Here’s a video of William doing tummy time on the exercise / therapy ball!
Always remember: Back to Sleep and Tummy to Play!