Current safe sleep practices have parents chanting "back is best" by the time they leave the hospital, so it might seem strange that those same parents are equally advised to give their awake babies a chance to spend time on their other side, their tummy! This is a practice parents and medical professionals affectionately call "Tummy Time".
Benefits of Tummy Time
Tummy Time is essential for babies to develop neck, back, and shoulder muscles and to prevent issues such as flat head syndrome and twisted neck (positional torticollis). It will help strengthen your little one's core muscles and allow them to form the building blocks needed as they begin rolling, sitting, and crawling.
Designating time on their stomach will allow your baby to explore surfaces and textures they might not otherwise have. This will stimulate their developing senses like sight and touch. It will also allow your baby to practice moving their body as they become more self-aware and gain an understanding of balance, hand-eye coordination, and more!<
Ways to Have Tummy Time
The traditional way to have Tummy Time is to simply lay your baby in the prone position (on their stomach-face down) on the floor. You can put a brightly colored play mat or blanket under them to give a soft clean surface and some visual stimulation. (This will also protect your floor from any spit-up accidents that may result from the extra pressure on their stomach). If your baby is upset being on their tummy, try getting on eye level with them and smiling for encouragement! This can comfort a baby who might be otherwise upset when they can't see you.
If your baby is one that hates to be put down at all, you can still get the benefits of Tummy Time by having them lay tummy-to-tummy on the chest of a trusted grown-up. You can also hold your baby in a prone position while supporting their head and neck or by laying them across your knees while you sit. (Just be sure to keep a firm hold on your baby so they don't roll off and fall!) An added benefit of these positions is that they can be used for burping and helping relieve gas as well.
If your baby resists Tummy Time even if you remain nearby, consider utilizing some of the following options:
- Keeping a regular schedule so your baby knows what to expect (Tummy Time after baths or diaper changes).
- Utilize distractions like toys or songs to catch your baby's attention and keep them focused and happy.
A Tummy Time Timeline
Parents can begin Tummy Time with their babies right away as newborns and continue intentionally designating that time until they are 7-9 months old and moving regularly on their own. While enriching your baby with Tummy Time, you can look for the following milestones to ensure they meet their developmental milestones. You may also consider watching videos online for examples of babies experiencing Tummy Time at each stage.
Two weeks:You may primarily utilize Tummy Time positions where you are holding your baby at this stage rather than placing them on the floor. This not only comforts your newborn baby but also gives you the benefit of some sweet newborn snuggles.
1-2 months: Your baby will most likely be turning their head, or even trying to lift their head during Tummy Time, trying to see things around them and giving their face some freedom. Eventually, Tummy Time should be more familiar and less upsetting for your baby.
3-4 months: This is an exciting stage as babies will have more head control and often begin tracking things with their faces and eyes as they move around the room. You can dangle a toy in front of them to keep their focus during Tummy Time, and they may be starting to lift themselves onto their elbows. They should be able to spend around an hour a day in Tummy Time. (Total, not all at one time).
5-6 months: Your baby will begin to straighten their arms, push up onto their hands, and occasionally reach forward toward toys or objects in front of them. They will start turning their body and even rolling from back to front and front to back. They may begin to realize that they are more mobile on their stomach and begin to enjoy Tummy Time more than ever before!
Some safety reminders to keep in mind:
- Your baby should only be placed on their stomach when they are awake. If they fall asleep during Tummy Time, roll them onto their back.
- Communicate with all of your baby's caregivers so they understand the importance of Tummy Time, what to expect, and how to safely facilitate.
- If you are concerned your baby isn't reaching the appropriate milestones during Tummy Time, bring your concerns to your baby's doctor so they can advise you on the next steps if necessary.
- Never leave your baby unsupervised during Tummy Time, especially on a plush surface such as a thick blanket which can pose a suffocation hazard, or on a higher level like a couch or bed where they could roll off and fall. As your baby gets older, be conscious of what is around your baby and within reach, such as cords they could get tangled in or small objects that they could place in their mouths and choke on.
Tummy Time can be a fun activity for parents or guardians and babies alike as your baby learns and grows through milestones. Before you know it, your little one will be crawling around faster than you can imagine!