Q. My 3-month-old hates tummy time. He cries whenever I put him on his belly to play, and he doesn't seem to enjoy it at all. How important is tummy time? And is there a way to make it fun for him?
A. One unintended side effect of putting babies to sleep on their back (a very safe and recommended practice) has been that babies are spending less time on their belly. The popularity and increased use of infant seats, swings, and carriers has also meant less tummy time. As a result, today's babies have fewer chances to practice using their arms, back, neck, and head to lift themselves up. Consequently, they are taking longer to develop the neck, trunk, and arm strength they need to roll, crawl, pull up, and walk.
But just because tummy time is good for them doesn't mean babies like it. In fact, for many babies, the opposite is true. Imagine that someone laid you on the floor and you couldn't lift your head for more than a few seconds -- not fun! So start off slowly, with one to two minutes of tummy time and work up to five to 10 minutes as your baby's strength and comfort with this position grow. Place baby on his tummy as many as eight to 10 times a day if you can. This gives him lots of chances to play and increase his strength. Here are some ideas for making it fun:
- Lie on your back and place your baby on your tummy or chest. Once he gets used to this, try moving him to a blanket on the floor.
- Place a rolled towel under baby's arms or shoulders to make it easier for him to lift and turn his head.
- Place new or interesting toys, such as a baby-safe mirror, in front of your baby.
- Lie on your tummy in front of baby so he sees you when he looks up. He loves to look at faces -- especially yours!
Rebecca Parlakian, also of Zero to Three, contributed to this column.
Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the May 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.
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