Most new parents would have heard the term ‘tummy-time’ flung around them at some point or the other. Sleep Time- Back, Play Time Tummy is the mantra that new parents are given. In the Western world, various campaigns to reduce incidents of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in the 90s were successfully run to make babies sleep on their back but resulted in fewer babies meeting motor related milestones. This in turn led to an increase in more importance being given to tummy-time for babies. In India, as we more commonly use equipment such as cribs, cradles, car-seats, bouncy chairs and prams, a baby has less time to work on strengthening muscles. Tummy-time can help give babies the additional time they need to work on their muscles.
What Is Meant By Tummy-Time For Babies?
Tummy-time, as the name suggests, is when the baby is placed on his/her tummy. Mostly, a baby spends his time sleeping, and a baby should always sleep on his back – never deviate from this rule. Sleeping on the back helps in preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. Tummy time would usually make up a lot of the baby’s floor play time. When the baby is on his tummy, it allows him to develop control of his body, starting with the head, shoulders and all the way down to the toes. The first sign of having mastered control is when the baby turn his/her head to look around.
When To Start Tummy Time For A Baby?
Babies can start tummy-time right from birth. The idea is to simply flip your baby tummy down for a while. You could choose to wait till the umbilical stump falls off, and the baby seems uncomfortable during tummy time. Some parents begin tummy-time play for about a minute or two at 1 – 2 months, when babies can hold their heads up for a short time. Others prefer to start at 3- 4 months when the muscles are stronger, especially at the neck and shoulders. They key is to start tummy time when your baby is in a good mood – like after a nap or a diaper change, and has been fed atleast an hour before so that spitting out can be avoided.
What Are The Benefits Of Tummy Time For Infants
Tummy-time helps as it is a good core body workout. It strengthens muscles needed for rolling over, sitting, crawling and gives your baby the ultimate workout. Tummy time also helps in the development of gross motor skills and hones some lesser used muscle groups. Another advantage of tummy-time is that it reduces the time spent on the back. Babies have soft skulls and lying in one position for too long can change the shape of the skull. Too much back time can result in a flat head and tilted neck. A baby generally sleeps most of his time, and his head usually rests in one favored position. This can make the head flattened as the baby’s skull is soft, and keeping it in the same position for long times can create a flat spot. Tummy time also offers your baby plenty of time to master head control, and gives him relief from gas in the stomach. Plus the baby gets to see the world from another angle altogether.
Another research suggests that babies who have ample tummy time start to roll, sit and crawl earlier than babies who do not have tummy time.
How To Start Tummy Time For Babies?
A good approach as with most things baby-related, is to ease them into the new routine. Start with a few minutes at a time, allowing your little one to get used to the new position and gradually increase the duration.
What If The Baby Does Not Like Tummy Time?
Many a times, babies are uncomfortable or dislike the tummy position. This is because tummy time can be tough – it could make the baby do some extra work. The trick here is to allow it a daily practice and keep the baby motivated and interested. While parents shouldn’t get stressed over this trend as babies do eventually gain enough strength to roll over, sit up and start walking, and a little work out never harmed anyone. Keeping toys around the baby during tummy-time would also help to improve co-ordination and fine motor skills as they attempt to reach out and grab them.
Some parents experience good tummy-times when giving the baby a massage or after a bath. The key is to remember that the baby should enjoy it, so select a time when your baby is alert, cheerful and playful, and not immediately after a meal.
How Can I Make My Baby Like Tummy Time?
Who likes to exercise, right? It is but natural for your baby to dislike her tummy time given the physical tiredness involved. So how do you make tummy time fun for your baby?
- Get down: Do not just sit there after plopping your baby on her stomach. Get down too her level, make eye contact, sing songs, talk, make funny faces and noises, and be her workout buddy
- Take it slow: Now matter how important tummy time is, do not push your baby beyond her comfort zone. If she starts to cry or get irritated in the process, she will probably not like to do it at all the next time
- Set her favorite toys: In a bid to encourage your baby to practice tummy time, try placing her favorite toys or colorful books at a suitable distance so that she is tempted to reach them
- Prop a towel: Some babies who dislike tummy time respond better when a rolled up towel is placed under their chest so as to provide them support
- Appreciate and reward: When your tot reaches a toy and grabs it, make sure you appreciate her efforts by praising, clapping and lots of cuddling. The best rewards for a baby!
What Are The Other Alternative Positions For Tummy-Time
For newborns, these positions can be tried:
- Instead of calming a baby on your shoulder, occasionally try laying the baby tummy-down across your lap, supporting the baby over the bottom
- Enjoy some quality time by placing the baby tummy down on your tummy or chest
- Carry the baby lengthwise, tummy down instead of upright, supporting the baby against your body
- When on his tummy, get down to your baby’s level and talk, sing, smile while changing positions to encourage head-lifting and turning
As the baby grows, the routine can include:
- Propping the baby with a rolled-up blanket or flat pillow
- Placing him in a baby gym or scattering interesting toys, books or a mirror nearby to keep him occupied
- Playing “aeroplane.” Fly baby around the room, tummy down
Whenever you decide to introduce tummy-time, remember to keep it relaxed and fun for both of you. It’s a great way to bond but when the baby gets tired or fussy, try another position.
How Much And For How Long Should I Give My Baby Tummy Time?
While some pediatricians advise to give babies tummy time immediately after birth, for around a few seconds to a minute or two, others are of the view that babies should be given tummy time as and when they like it. 15 seconds, or 15 minutes, let the baby decide the same. Start by giving tummy time atleast once a day, slowly graduating to 2-3 sessions per day. If the baby doesn’t seem to like her tummy time, step back and try again after a few days break. Or you could shorten the session times to see if the baby likes to do it for lesser time than what you deem fit. As long as your baby gets tummy time, no matter how little, she will still benefit from it.
The first year of life for babies is all about developing motor skills. From birth, they are constantly learning how to control their body and use it to move around and explore the world around them. Three months of age is the milestone by which babies are expected to have control of their head and neck and pull up using their arms. In case this milestone has not been achieved, or significant tilting of the head to one side, or flattening of the head has been noticed please consult your pediatrician as soon as possible.