Most parents hear that Tummy Time is important for baby’s developing neck strength. But the benefits of belly-down time for a baby are so much bigger than that!
Tummy Time is important for stretching and strengthening many muscle groups including the chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands and hips. It alleviates the pressures on the skull that contribute to head flattening, helps shape bones of the ribcage and the joints of the shoulders, gives baby important sensory input that lays the foundation for many motor skills to come (rolling, sitting, crawling and walking), and research shows that it’s a more effective position for reducing reflux than reclined in a car seat carrier, seat or swing.
One of the biggest keys to Tummy Time success is to start early – in the first days of life for a healthy, full-term baby. You can start with Tummy Time on your body (on your chest or over your lap) for a newborn and add belly-down awake time on a flat surface as baby tolerates it.
Not all Tummy Time needs to be a head-lifting Olympic event. Belly-down time with baby’s cheek resting on the surface is still very important and beneficial!
Start with lots of short sessions (30 seconds to 3 minutes is very normal for a newborn) and increase the duration as baby tolerates, aiming for 30 minutes total per day by the end of month one and increasing as baby gets older.
Place toys or items for baby to look at where you notice baby can look in Tummy Time since newborns aren’t able to lift and hold the head up and centered to look ahead of them yet.
Make Tummy Time a part of your daily routines or you WILL forget to do it – life is busy with a new baby! Roll baby over after every diaper change, place baby belly-down for a minute each time you put her down, hold or carry your baby in Tummy Time on your forearm (sometimes called a “football hold”).
Novelty is huge for keeping Tummy Time fun. Find interesting and different things for baby to look at or reach for (for older babies) while belly down. I recommend setting daily Tummy Time goals and tracking you and baby’s progress toward them. Tummy Time is just that important. Happy playing with your kiddo!
Rachel Coley, Ms, OT/L
For more suggestions on how to add novelty and development-boosting fun to your baby’s Tummy Time check out Rachel Coley’s wonderful book Begin With A Blanket: Creative Play For Infants