What Is Tummy Time?
Between naps and nighttime, your baby can spend as many as 15 hours a day on his back. To balance that out, he needs to spend time lying on his stomach when he's awake. Tummy-time activities—which strengthen his neck and core and make it less likely that he'll develop a flat spot his head—encompass a variety of toys, positions, and routines that'll keep your infant spending a significant amount of time on his stomach. Whether he likes it or not (and most don't at first), your baby needs to practice lifting his head, then pushing up from the ground.
Add this exercise to your routine: When carrying Baby against your hip, alternate the hip he sits on frequently. This will encourage him to turn his head from left to right.
Why Are Tummy-Time Activities Important?
Tummy time is key to helping baby reach physical milestones such as rolling over, crawling and eventually walking. Including tummy time toys in your little one's routine is beneficial for many areas of development. You'll notice she will begin to develop muscles in her arms, shoulders, upper back, and neck. A baby who spends too much time with her back against a hard supporting surface won't see the same improvements. She might even miss developmental milestones and develop a flat spot on the back of her head.
Add this exercise to your routine: After feeding and burping, place baby belly-down. This is an excellent way to begin tummy time with infants.
How To Do Tummy Time
Start by laying Baby on her tummy on the floor. If your baby cannot hold her head up for a long period of time place a C-shape, boppy pillow under her chest to help her get a better view. Make tummy time positions fun with playmats designed especially for her—with colors, textures, and lights to keep her entertained during tummy time.
Add this exercise to your routine: Carry Baby facing away from you so she can see the world. She will enjoy the view and begin to turn from side to side to get a better look at things that interest her.
How Long and How Often?
Tummy time should begin right away according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This is when Baby begins to gain strength in his neck. You should be supervising about 15-20 minutes of tummy-time activity every day. For a fussy baby, try five minutes at a time, three times a day. It's important to keep encouranging tummy-time exercises until Baby learns to walk because his neck, abdominal, and back muscles are still developing.
Add this exercise to your routine: Carry or hold your newborn belly-down, supporting the head and chest. As your baby gets older and stronger, you won't need to provide as much support.
Switch Up Your Routine
Incorporate muscle-strengthening positions into the way you hold and care for your baby. Soothe a crying baby by laying him across your lap, tummy-down. Gently roll your baby from side to side as you put on his shirt and pants.
Add this exercise to your routine: Keep Baby on his tummy after bathing, and massage him from head to toe to stimulate those little muscles.
Changes You Will Notice
Tummy time sets the stage for gross motor skills such as reaching, rolling over, and crawling. Baby will also begin to be aware of balance and hand-eye coordination. She wants to gain confidence and independence by exploring the world around her. Tummy-time activities allow Baby to begin her growth and become a strong toddler.
Add this exercise to your routine: Spoon-feed your baby with the spoon coming in from the right, front, and the left, encouraging her to swivel that little neck.
What to Expect
Look for these monthly physical development milestones as a result of tummy-time activities.Month 2: Begins to show neck controlMonth 3: Baby can hold his head at a 45-degree angle from the floor, using his forearms to prop him up.Month 4: Baby can lift his head to a 90-degree angle and is starting to sit with support of his hands.Months 5-6: He can now roll from front to back, and he is beginning to sit while still propping himself up with one arm.Months 7-8: Baby gets up on his hands and knees and might even begin to crawl.Months 9-10: Your baby is gaining independence; he can now stand and cruise along the furniture.Months 11-12: Baby takes his first step.
Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play
This is an important rule to remember. When the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended laying Baby to sleep on his back instead of his tummy, the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) dropped by 40 percent. Because of this recommendation, babies have been spending more time on their backs. Tummy time is still very important, but it must happen while baby is awake and always take place under your watchful eye.
Conditions to Be Aware Of
A baby who spends too much time on her back is likely to develop positional plagiocephaly, a condition defined by flat spots on the back or sides of her head. This is usually temporary, and is treatable by having your baby wear a custom helmet or bands which will help reshape her head, but it also can be prevented with tummy time and a few simple exercises. Just remember, it's important not to leave Baby unattended during tummy time because doing so is one of the only known risk factors of SIDS.
Although it is not necessary to buy any special products for tummy time, baby playmats, toys, and boppy pillows can make the routine more fun and interesting for your little one.