Tummy Time: Benefits, Recommendations and Safety Guidelines

Tummy Time: Benefits, Recommendations and Safety Guidelines

According to Lauren Crosby, MD, you should think of tummy time as your baby’s first workout.  This is where you place the baby on their stomach to play for a few minutes every day. It is critical for developing neck muscle strength, control, and stability within the shoulder girdles.

It also allows your child to gain the strength and coordination required to lift their head and roll, sit, crawl and walk in the near future. In fact, delayed onset of many developmental milestones is associated with a lack of tummy time. Most importantly though, this activity helps prevent flat spots on the back of a child’s head caused by lying on their back for too long.

What Age Should I Start Tummy Time?

The AAP recommends starting the same day you bring your baby home from the hospital. You will start slowly by getting into a reclined position and laying your child on your chest and slowly graduating to firmer surfaces. This allows the baby to adjust to it in a place they feel safe, and then you can recline further and further back until you are lying flat on your back, and your baby is lying on you.

In the beginning, your infant will only tolerate 1-3 minutes of tummy time at a go, so you'll want to do this several times a day. Aim for a total of 5 minutes in the first week, 10 minutes a day in the second week, and graduate from there. By the time your baby is three to four months, they should be getting an hour or 90 minutes a day, spread out throughout the day.

Alternatively, you can lay your baby stomach down on your lap. You will sit up in a comfortable chair, position your legs at a 90-degree angle and place your baby across your lap. Her entire torso should be supported by your legs, so the only things in the air are a bit of legs and head. This works amazingly well because your baby will try to lift its head up.

Should You Do It Before or After Feeding?

If the only choices are before or after feeding, the right answer is after. Babies are fussy and less cooperative when hungry, so you will have a hard time doing it on an empty stomach.

Ideally, you should schedule tummy time when the baby is at their best- relaxed and happy. Doctors will tell you to do it after a bath, diaper change, or right after she wakes up. If your baby's happiest time is after feeding, it makes sense to do it then.

That said, you should not do tummy time immediately after feeding. Placing the baby on their stomach when they are full can lead to throwing up due to pressure or reflux. Give it around 30-45 minutes after feeding, and then do it.

What To Do When Your Baby Doesn’t Like Tummy Time

Baby on tummy during tummy time play what to do when your baby doesn't like tummy timeInterestingly, many babies don’t like tummy time in the beginning. It goes against their inclination to just lie down and rest, and it can feel uncomfortable. However, it's an important step that you cannot afford to skip even if baby dislikes it.
So, how do you make it more enjoyable?

1.     Try it on a softer surface

Sometimes, the reason your child hates tummy time is that you are putting them on a hard surface like the floor. Try it on a soft surface like a firm bed or your lap. You can also roll up a towel or place a breastfeeding pillow under their chest. This will give them a bit of a lift and also provide a soft surface.

2.     Do tummy time together

Get down on the floor next to/in front of your baby and do tummy time with them. You can talk to them, sing, play, read a picture book, or whatever else is entertaining to them. Doing this will distract the child for a few minutes so they don’t realize they hate tummy time, and it will encourage them to lift their head and arms.

3.     Try a non-breakable mirror

Baby using a non-breakable mirror for tummy time playBabies are fascinated by mirrors, and they cannot get enough of them. When you place a small unbreakable mirror in front of your child, they will try to reach out and touch their reflection. Again, this will distract them from the actual exercise and encourage them to lift their head and arms. It’s the perfect way to keep baby in that position for a few minutes without fuss.

4.     Place toys in front of the baby

Last but not least, offering tummy toys for baby encourages them to move, lift their head and turn to reach them. You can place one toy in front and another one to the side. Make sure it’s a toy they love if the baby is bigger or something very colorful or with significant contrast when the baby is an infant.

The best tummy time toys for baby will be stimulating to the eye, brain, and hands and also attention-capturing. Think of mirrors, a brightly-colored support pillow with toys, a light bar toy, and something that makes interesting noises.
Speaking of toys…

Is It Okay To Buy Used Toys for Tummy Time?

Absolutely. The best tummy time toys for baby don’t come cheap, especially if you buy them on Amazon or in baby shops. You can get a perfectly good used toy from a second-hand store near you or online from a used baby store like Toycycle.
The trick is to ensure the toys are in good condition, clean and safe for use. Your child’s hands will be touching that toy a lot so ensure it meets the safety and hygienic standards of a new toy.

In closing, the most important thing to know about tummy time is to keep safety first. Don’t do tummy time for a long period because that can hurt the child, and never allow them to sleep in that position. In addition, tummy time should be a closely supervised activity, and you should not leave your baby alone while doing it.

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