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You know that tummy time is important, but what if your baby hates it? Luckily there are some things you can do to make the experience more fun for the both of you. But first let’s cover why it is important.
Since pediatricians started encouraging parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs, cases of sudden infant death syndrome have dropped by 50 percent. But it means that babies are spending more time on their backs and less time on their tummies. And babies who spend a lot of time in a baby carrier or swing have even less tummy time.
Without spending time on their tummies, babies aren’t able to practice things like lifting their heads, turning over, reaching, pivoting, and other skills that they will eventually need for crawling, sitting up, and walking. Allowing babies to gradually build strength in their neck and back muscles is an important part of their development. And when babies spend too much time on their backs they can sometimes develop a flat spot on the back of their head.
Tummy time is basically giving babies time to be on their stomachs while carefully supervised. Always remember that babies should be on their backs while sleeping and on their tummies while playing.
Different practitioners may have different recommendations for tummy time based on how old your baby is and any other needs your baby might have.
But having a goal is a good way to help you remember to do it. Many doctors recommend that you try for 60 to 90 minutes a day, broken up into smaller increments. You can leave your baby on her tummy for as long as she likes, but if she starts to cry pick her up. You can also try distracting her by flipping her over, playing with her for a few minutes, and then lying her back down on her tummy.
But don’t mistake grunting and exertion for crying. Tummy time is hard work and your baby is likely to make lots of noise!
It is easier to remember to do tummy time when you can connect it to another routine activity. For example every time you change your baby’s diaper, get into the habit of flipping her over afterwards to play for a little.
Tummy time isn’t always easy. It is hard to lift and support your head and it can be frustrating. But just like with adults, making the work fun and rewarding can go a long way.
Try not to make tummy time a chore on your to-do list. Instead look at it as something fun you can do with your baby. If what you are currently doing isn’t fun, look at ways to make it fun. Here are some ideas:
When we teach older children to ride a bike we don’t expect everything to go smoothly at first. We expect it to take time and effort. We even expect to see some frustration. But once they get it, it is wonderful to see the sense of accomplishment in their eyes. Tummy time is the same way. Take it slow and allow your baby to gradually build up the needed skills. And let your baby know just how proud you are of her for all her work!
Here are some good steps to follow.
1) You can start tummy time right away as long as your baby is comfortable. With newborns it is a good idea to lie down and then have your baby lie down on your chest so that you are lying tummy to tummy. This also makes for fabulous snuggle time! The more inclined your body is, the easier it will be for your baby. You can adjust the incline as your baby becomes more accustomed to the position. You will notice that at 3 to 4 months your baby’s neck strength and control will improve, allowing her to lift and turn her head more easily.
2) One of the easiest ways to ease your baby into tummy time is to hold them up by your shoulder when carrying them so that their head is peeking up over your back. This helps them learn to support their heads without also having to fight so hard against gravity.
3) Fussy babies are often soothed by being placed facedown across your lap and having their backs rubbed. This is also a great way to get some tummy time. You can lift one knee higher than the other depending on how much help your baby needs. Placing your hand on your baby’s bottom also helps provide more stability.
4) Try lying on your back and bending your knees up so that you form a kind of hill with your legs. Then position your baby on your shins so that her head is peeking up over your knees. You can vary how difficult it is for your baby by raising your knees up higher (easier) or down lower (harder). This is a great position because baby has that wonderful physical contact with you and you can make eye contact.
5) When your baby is lying on the floor, you can make it easier by rolling up a receiving blanket and placing it under your baby’s armpits. You can also use a nursing pillow or your leg.
6) Try the tummy down carry. Put your arm up between your baby’s legs with the hand up under the stomach. The other hand is used to support your baby’s head and shoulders. If your baby needs more support, you can hold her closer to your body. It almost looks like you are carrying a football.
Most important, remember that lifting that head is hard work! Things will go a lot more smoothly if you help your baby work into it and gradually help her build up the needed muscles and control.