Babies spend A LOT of time on their backs. It's a daily rotation from bassinet to changing table to car seat to crib to play mat to stroller to bouncy seat to rockers or infant swings. Whew! It's no wonder why many babies aren't particularly fond of the sensation of being on their bellies.
"Tummy time" is a phrase that's relatively new. The explosion of baby products that contain or hold babies have given rise to babies who are on their backs much of the day. And since the thankful discovery that SIDS is greatly reduced when babies sleep on their backs, nights are also spent in the supine position.
"New parents are told of the importance of babies sleeping on their backs to avoid SIDS, but they are not always informed about the importance of tummy time," says Judy Towne Jennings, PT, MA, a physical therapist and researcher.
Physical therapists report that infants' lack of tummy time has been shown to cause torticollis, a neck muscle imbalance, and motor delays. Babies' skulls can also become misshapen or flattened (plagiocephaly) when they spend too much time (and/or pressure) resting on the back of their heads. Therefore, special attention needs to be given to make sure babies have ample time on their tummies. Every day.
It's never too early to start. And if 1-2 minutes is all your baby can tolerate before getting upset, take it!
- Sit in a semi-reclined position on a chair or couch. Place your baby on their tummy, on your chest and abdomen. Encourage your baby to lift their head to see you.
- Place your baby on their stomach on an incline with their head higher than their feet.
- Sit on the floor with your legs out straight. Place your baby across your legs so that their arms are over your legs and arms touch the floor. Use a toy to keep baby’s interest!!
- Roll up a towel or baby blanket placed under their chest, again being sure that the arms are over and in front of the roll.
- Get right down on the floor in front of your baby when on their tummy.
- Put your baby on their belly after each diaper change, right there on the changing table. Encourage your baby to find, focus and follow your face or a toy with their eyes looking up, down, left and right.
Holding your baby or wearing them in a wrap or upright carrier is great, as it takes the pressure off of their heads. But also allowing them free range, while on their bellies, ensures that all their muscles have an opportunity to move and strengthen. And remember to always watch your baby during tummy time.
Increasing the amount of time your baby lies on his or her tummy promotes muscle development in the neck and shoulders; helps prevent tight neck muscles and the development of flat areas on the back of the baby's head; and helps build the muscles baby needs to roll, sit and crawl," says Colleen Coulter-O'Berry, PT, MS, PCS, a physical therapist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Let me know what works for you!