Let baby become accustomed to tummy time
Kerry Galleher, MSPT
MedCentral Pediatric Therapy
We're all familiar with the "Back to Sleep" campaign, which was designed to reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. As a result of that effort, babies are spending more time on their backs not only when they're sleeping, but also in car seats, in equipment and when they're on the floor playing. This has decreased the time babies spend on their tummies by 10-12 hours each day.
Tummy time is important to provide babies with an opportunity to see their world from a different angle. It allows them to strengthen neck and abdominal muscles. Tummy time is the most important in the first six months of life. Babies also develop skills that are important for crawling, walking, reading, writing and coordination.
A new saying has been circulating as a spin-off of the "Back to Sleep" campaign: "Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play." It encourages parents to increase the amount of tummy time when their child is awake. This will help with their child's fine and gross motor development. Once on their tummies, babies tend to kick and flail, working their large motor muscles. They must work against gravity to interact with their environment. Babies on their tummies may grasp at a parent's shirt or a blanket, thus encouraging fine motor development.
When thinking about providing tummy time for your baby, remember the saying, "TUMMY PLAY":
- Involve all family members, caregivers and daycare providers.
- Place baby on a colorful blanket with different textures and toys to feel.
- Give baby a back massage with gentle strokes from neck to feet.
- Fit tummy time into your regular routine.
- Start early by placing your baby on your chest.
- Place newborn on his tummy 2-3 times per day for 3-5 minutes, increasing the time as his tolerance increases.
- By 4 months of age your baby should be spending 1-2 hours on her tummy, spread throughout the day.
- Don't make it a chore; make it fun!
- Babies develop neck and abdominal strength by working against gravity.
- Provide calm and attentive talking and eye contact to get baby's attention.
- Play peek-a-boo using a washcloth or your hands.
- Sing or chant a favorite song so baby turns her head to find your voice and listen for sounds.
- Alternate the hip your baby straddles to encourage looking, turning and balancing (to the right and left sides) in both directions.
- Carry your baby over your shoulder.
- Hold your baby out in front and facing away from you. Gently keep his head centered.
- Carry your baby belly down, with your arm supporting underneath his chest.
- Play airplane and pretend he is flying as you carry (and support) him.
- Dressing and Bathing
- Towel dry and change your baby on her belly. Gently roll your baby from side to side as you put on her clothes.
- Alternate the position of your baby on the changing table. Roll your baby from side to side as you fasten his diaper tabs. Talk to your baby from different sides as you change his diaper.
- Change your baby's diaper on the bed or floor with your baby facing you.
- After diaper changes, roll your baby on his belly before picking him up. While supervised, allow the baby to play in this position for a few minutes.
- Change the arm you hold your baby in for feeding so she begins to look and turn equally to both sides.
- Try placing your baby belly-down over your lap when burping.
- Be in tune with your baby
- Pay attention to when your baby tolerates tummy time the best and in what position.
- Start with 10-20 second sessions and work up to longer periods.
- Use colorful or musical toys.
- Place a mirror to encourage head lifting.
- Put toys just out of reach to motivate your baby to move toward them.
- You are in control of her development
- Make time for your child to develop her skills.
Every child develops differently, but as parents you can provide opportunities to help your child achieve his gross motor milestones. Typically children sit and roll over (from tummy to back and back to tummy) between 4 and 7 months, crawl between 8 and 12 months, and walk around 11 and 13 months. Notice there is a wide range of several months for each milestone. This means you shouldn't compare your child's growth to another child's development. If you have concerns about your child's development talk to your pediatrician.