Tummy time will help your baby develop muscle strength which will eventually help him hold his head up, roll over, support himself while sitting, and crawl. Between naps and sleeping, trips in the car seat, and hanging out in his swing, your baby could be spending a lot of time on his back. It's important to balance that time out with some time on his tummy.
Some babies take to tummy time with no problem. Others need a little coaxing and some practice. Some babies seem to hate tummy time with a passion. As a new parent, you probably don't like to see your newborn frustrated or upset, so we have some tips to help make tummy time easier and more bearable for you, and more importantly, your newborn.
15 Why is Tummy Time so Important?
Supervised tummy time can help your baby develop strong neck, shoulder, and core muscles. Strengthening these muscles will, in turn, promote certain motor skills. Research studies have shown babies that spend time on their bellies tend to crawl earlier than those who don't get a lot of tummy time. The more practice they get being on their stomach, the sooner babies may push up, roll over, crawl, and sit without needing support.
Giving your baby time on his belly will also help to prevent your baby's head from becoming flat or developing flat spots. Because a baby's skull is soft and made up of movable plates, if a baby spends too much time on their back, flat spots may develop. Tummy time puts a baby in a different position and reduces the risk of those flat spots from occurring.
14 Timing is Everything
You can begin tummy time right away, although some people wait a few weeks so that their baby's head and neck muscles are a little stronger. When you do decide to start tummy time, it's best to wait until after the umbilical stump falls off and start for small periods of time. Make sure your baby isn't too tired, hungry, or full. Wait about an hour after feeding or nursing, so your baby's stomach has had some time to settle.
Your baby may not be happy the first few times that he's placed on his belly. Some babies really seem unhappy. Place your baby on a soft, thick blanket or on your bed to make sure they're comfortable. Don't leave your baby unattended during tummy time.
If your baby cries or begins to fuss during tummy time, coax them to stick it out a few seconds longer, and then pick them up and reassure them. As he spends more and more time on his belly, he'll begin to get used to the idea, and his endurance will build. A lot of times, once a baby is able to roll over on his own, tummy time doesn't seem so bad after all!
Just remember to smart small--a short amount of tummy time a few times every day. You can gradually put your baby on his belly more frequently and for longer amounts of time as he seems to tolerate it better.
13 After Diaper Changes
One suggestion for introducing your baby to tummy time is to do it after diaper changes. A lot of parents use diaper changes as a way to remember or "schedule" some tummy time. After every diaper change, gently roll your baby over onto his stomach for a minute. Your baby may come to expect this as part of the diaper changing routine and it may help your baby get used to it.
If you use a changing table (or change your baby up on your bed) your baby may appreciate the new view. The different height will give the baby a chance to see things that he doesn't normally get to see. Instead of staring up at the wall or the ceiling, your baby can get a look around the room. Just remember to never leave your baby unattended on a changing table or bed.
12 Tummy to Tummy
Let your baby do tummy time with you--on your tummy. You can do this when you cuddle on the couch if you hold your baby for naps, and even in the bathtub. Many babies prefer being cuddled and held close to their parents, so this form of tummy time might work best for babies who are a little resistant to being on their own.
Recline a little bit and lay your baby on your chest/stomach so that their head is close to your face. When your baby is able to hold his head up a little bit, he'll love being able to look you right in the eye and study your facial features and expressions.
11 Change your Hold
You probably cradle your baby in your arms a lot of the time but switch up your grip every once in awhile. Holding your baby up high on your shoulder from time to time--it's basically a vertical form of tummy time. If you carry your baby on one hip or on one side, switch to the other side every once in awhile so your baby learns to turn his neck in both directions to see better. You can also keep your hand under your baby's bottom and face him outward when you carry him. That way, he gets to see all around him.
Holding your baby in different positions will help him learn how to adjust his position and move his head and neck to get comfortable and to see better, which will help him with tummy time in the long run.
10 Get Down There
When you place your baby on the floor for tummy time, get right down there with him so that he knows he's not alone. Change your position frequently so that he can practice turning his head and neck to look in different directions. Lie directly in front of him and then move to each side. Talk and sing to your baby to entertain him and keep his attention focused on you, rather than on his position.
9 Go Lower
Once your baby starts getting used to tummy time, try putting him on surfaces of varying heights. Try placing him on a couch or bed and kneeling down below him so that he can see you from a different angle. You can use this up and down tummy time position as a way to introduce peek-a-boo!
If you have an exercise ball (perhaps the one you used to roll around on when you were in labor?), lay your baby on that and gently roll him back and forth and side to side. Again, the different positions will encourage him to work on lifting, moving, and holding his head and neck muscles.
8 On the Mat
Give your baby a colorful and attention-grabbing surface on which to practice tummy time. It can be a fancy tummy time mat or a brightly colored, patterned blanket or quilt.
There are also tummy time activity mats out there with toys to reach for, musical buttons to push, and mirrors to gaze into.
The important thing is to keep your baby occupied and entertained. A busy baby is a happy baby (even when he's on his tummy!)
7 Break out the Boppy
Being on his belly can put your baby in a bit of an awkward position--literally! If your baby has a hard time holding his head up at first, you can use your nursing pillow (or a rolled up towel or blanket) to help prop him up a little bit. Place his arms over the pillow and tuck the pillow back under his armpits. The added support and height will make things a little easier for your baby. (Plus, your baby won't fall over face-first into the floor when he gets tired.)
You can do the same thing on your lap, as well. Lay your baby on his stomach across your legs, and slightly bend the leg that is supporting your baby's chest.
6 Mirror, Mirror
Your baby probably loves looking at you and your smiling face but what else do babies love looking at? Themselves! During tummy time, place your baby in front of a mirror so that they can study their reflection. He will love looking at "the other baby" in front of him and will be encouraged to hold his head up for longer periods of time if he has something interesting to look at.
You can find lots of special tummy time mirrors online and in baby stores. Some play music, others come with flashcards. Some are just plain, unbreakable plastic. Either way, your baby will love staring at his adorable reflection.
5 Just out of Reach
Provide your baby with a bunch of toys, rattles, and books during tummy time. Place these enticing objects just out of reach so if the baby is interested, he has to turn his neck to see them, or maybe even lean to the side or stretch and reach to grab them.
Giving your baby different objects to grab for will make tummy time more like play time. You can also put an older sibling in charge and let them "play" with the baby on the floor. Babies will love having a playmate, and the days of not being able to tolerate tummy time will be a thing of the past!
4 Work it In
Sneak in a little tummy time throughout the day when your baby won't even realize it's happening. When you're drying him off after his bath, place him on a towel on your bed and give him a good rub. Perhaps give him his post-bath massage while he's lying on his tummy. Or try to dress him while he's lying on his belly.
You can also try burping your baby on his tummy while he's stretched out across your lap. (Just place a burp cloth in front of him in case of spit-up!) And if he's crying or upset, try soothing him by laying him on your chest or across your lap. Gently pat his bottom or rub his back to calm him down.
3 Don't Push It...
...but don't give up too soon, either!
If your baby doesn't accept being on his tummy right away, there's no need to push him to the point of distress. Don't worry about tummy time "quotas" or how much total time your baby spends on his stomach during the day.
Remember to start small--a minute or two at a time a few times a day. When your baby fusses, give him another few seconds of tummy time. Although you probably can't bear to see your baby upset or hear him cry, a few seconds of fussing while you're there supervising and soothing your baby, will not hurt him.
Tummy time will help your baby build the strength and coordination that is needed to achieve certain physical and developmental milestones. Remember that every baby is different. These are suggested milestone guidelines from Parents.com. Babies
2 months old: Begins to show neck control.3 months old: Baby can hold his head at a 45-degree angle from the floor, using his forearms to prop him up.4 months old: Baby can lift his head to a 90-degree angle and is starting to sit with support of his hands.5 or 6 months old: He can now roll from front to back, and he is beginning to sit while still propping himself up with one arm.7 or 8 months old: Baby gets up on his hands and knees and might even begin to crawl.9 or 10 months old: Your baby is gaining independence; he can now stand and cruise along the furniture.11 to 12 months old: Baby takes his first step.
1 Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play
Although we've just discussed the importance of tummy time, remember to always put your baby on his back to sleep. However, all of that tummy time will eventually pay off and your baby will start rolling over--an important milestone. Most babies eventually start rolling over on their own somewhere between 4-6 months old. Once your baby starts rolling, he may eventually roll over onto his stomach while he's sleeping. If he rolls on his own, you don't need to turn him over, just let him sleep! A lot of babies prefer to sleep on their tummies!