All About Tummy Time
We have heard for years just how important it is to put our babies on their backs to sleep. Doing so prevents sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But did you know it is almost as important to put your infant on his belly to play?
In the early 90s, the Academy of Pediatrics began the "Back to Sleep" campaign, and at the same time, an explosion of baby seating devices (such as car seats, which can be used in a stroller) also became widely used. This has caused many babies to spend most of their days on their backs and has led to flattening of a babies’ skulls, called plagiocephaly. It can also lead to torticollis, which is the tightening of neck muscles, causing a baby to look only in one direction. “Tummy time” strengthens a baby’s neck and shoulder muscles, helps prevent these conditions, and builds the muscles your baby needs to roll, sit, and crawl.
Tummy time is easy and fun. Here’s how:
- It’s never too early to start tummy time. Newborns can lie on your chest on their bellies or against your shoulder and they will begin to lift their heads to look at you.
- Look for a time when your child is comfortable, well rested, and fully awake. Immediately after a nap and diaper change is a great time to try it.
- Clear the area and spread a clean blanket on the floor. Place your child on their tummy on the blanket. Put a toy in front of them within reach.
- It’s important that someone watch the baby during this time. Sit in front of your baby or lie down with them to play and bond.
- Stay in this position for 3 – 5 minutes per session and repeat multiple times per day. Slowly build as the goal for tummy time is up to 90 minutes per day for a four month old.
Other helpful baby-positioning tips:
- When your baby is not on their tummy, be sure to spend some time holding them upright. Too much time in car seats, bouncers, swings, and carriers can also limit your baby’s growth and development.
- Baby wearing is a great way to do this while continuing to move around the house and get things done.
- Change the direction that your baby’s feet point in the crib. Doing so will encourage your baby to turn both ways to react to the sound of your voice or to the light of a window, for instance.
Sharing some tummy time every day is one of the many things your baby needs to grow up healthy and strong. Doing so is a great way to encourage their development.
Susan Atland, DPT, is a physical therapist with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Department in Bennington.