Tummy Time

Tummy Time

There was a time when parents didn’t have to worry about something called “tummy time.”  This was when it was common to put babies to sleep on their stomachs — before the medical community recognized that this was a contributing factor to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  Now it’s necessary to make sure you make time for tummy time, as it’s when infants are laying on their stomachs that they learn to push themselves up, and then eventually begin to crawl.  It’s during this process that they strengthen their back, head, and shoulder muscles, and it’s necessary that you start providing this tummy time right from day one.  It’s been found that babies who don’t spend enough time on their stomachs.  They have developmental delays when it comes to their motor skills.  Lying on their stomachs helps them to learn to push themselves up, to rollover, sit up, crawl, and eventually pull themselves up to a standing position.

Since babies now spend a significant amount of time on their backs — when their sleeping, when you put them down for a nap, even when they’re in their car seats, they may fret or be miserable when you lay them down on their stomachs.  Until they learn to lift their heads up, they really can’t see much of anything while they are lying on the floor.  They may even feel as if you have abandoned them there.  However, all is not lost, as there are some strategies that will help your baby become more comfortable on their tummy, and there are even products that can help.

Keep Your Baby Company

If you’re just beginning to implement tummy time, and are trying to help your baby grow accustomed to the feeling of being face down on the floor, one of the best things you can do is join them on the floor.  This is an excellent opportunity for you to play with them, while encouraging them.  You can play peekaboo games or make funny faces.  If you’re trying to get back into a workout routine that you might have been doing before birth, or before pregnancy, why not start to get back into the swing right now.  After all, your baby’s going to be going through something of a workout themselves.

If that doesn’t work for you, another alternative is to put your baby tummy down on your own tummy.  You don’t have to be on the floor for this, you can do this when you’re in a chair or even in the bathtub.

At about 4 months of age, your baby’s muscles should have strengthened enough so as to allow them sufficient head control.  Now is an excellent time to play a game of airplane with them.  This would be where you lie on the floor with your legs bent and put your baby’s tummy against your legs with his or her head at your knees.  Then you simply bend your legs while holding onto them.  Chances are they’ll get a kick out of this.  Another alternative is to lay them down on the bed, close to the edge, while you sit on the floor with your face close to theirs.  In this position, you can interact with them, keeping them amused and entertained while they work on developing their muscles.

Keep Them Entertained

Remember, you want to keep your baby on its tummy for as much time as possible, so if this means providing toys for them to play with, do so.  Whether it’s a board book, or any of their favorite toys, make sure they have something within reach.  If it’s within your budget, you may also want to consider investing in something like a gym or toy that has been designed specifically for tummy time.  You can also find activity mats that are designed for tummy time as well.  These mats will often have mirrors, or different pop-up toys, or a variety of other things to keep them entertained.  Another good trick as well is to make sure you take their socks off, as this allows them to get better traction on the mat, and will make it easier for them to start learning to push themselves up.

If you have other older children, or perhaps a family pet, it might be a good idea to make them a part of this time as well, as they may provide a distraction and help keep the baby happy while they’re on their tummy.

Help Them Prop Themselves Up

if your baby has gained enough strength to be able to hold their head up, but as of yet can’t get up on their forearms, an alternative is to place a pillow or rolled up towel under their chest and armpits, with their arms in front of them.  This new perspective may make a big difference for them.

Timing Is Everything

Make sure you choose your time wisely when you are laying your baby down for tummy time.  You want to be sure that they aren’t hungry or tired, but you also want to be sure that they don’t have a full tummy, as this may be uncomfortable for them to lie on.  It might be a good idea to wait until at least an hour after feeding them to lie them down on their stomach.

If they immediately start to cry when you lie them down, try to play with them, and distract them long enough so that they may be coaxed into staying down a little bit longer.  But don’t force the issue.  When they’ve had enough, pick them up and try again later.  You’ll find that as time passes, they are better able to tolerate tummy time, even if it takes a little more coaxing.  You’ll find that some babies have no problem with it once they learn to roll over on their own, as they can change their position now if it becomes uncomfortable for them.

Pay Attention to Baby

During tummy time, it’s important to pay attention to your baby’s cues.  There may be something specific about the experience and that is turning them off it.  So figure out what to fix, or what to add to the equation, to make this a more enjoyable time for them.