With so much focus on placing babies on their backs to sleep, it can be easy to forget the importance of tummy time! Tummy time refers to any period of time when your baby is, you guessed it, laying on his or her tummy. The floor is an ideal spot, but you could also lay your baby on your chest or across your lap. It may not seem like much, but the movements your baby exhibits during tummy time pave the way for big developmental milestones.
Why Tummy Time Is So Important
It’s not uncommon for babies to be less-than-thrilled about tummy time, but it’s well worth the fuss. Tummy time helps your baby develop muscles in his or her head, neck and shoulders as he or she learns to pick up his or her head. This type of muscle development makes milestones like crawling and walking possible. Infant tummy time also allows your baby to practice for other big milestones like rolling over and sitting up, while preventing plagiocephaly (also known as Flat Head Syndrome). Not to mention it’s an opportunity for you two to bond!
Tummy Time Age: When To Start Tummy Time
This is one activity where sooner is better than later. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents of newborns with no known health conditions play and interact with their baby while he or she is awake and on the tummy two to three times each day for a short period of time (3-5 minutes), beginning the first day home from the hospital.
How Long Baby Tummy Time Should Last
As your baby gets older and learns to enjoy tummy time, gradually increase the number and duration of tummy time sessions. Aim for around 20 to 30 minutes a day of tummy time by the time your baby is three or four months old. Continue tummy time until your baby can roll over on his or her own, which generally occurs around the six or seven-month mark.
How To Encourage Tummy Time
If your little one seems to hate tummy time, it’s okay to take a break and try again in a few days or weeks. You can encourage him or her by enlisting the help of toys, placing them just out of reach, which encourages your baby to extend him or herself to grasp at the object. Another way to stimulate your baby during tummy time is by getting on the floor and placing your face near his or hers, and using your voice to encourage him or her to lift his or her head. While you’re lying on the floor, move your baby’s hands around to encourage him or her to feel new things and explore the surroundings.
Just like any other exercise, baby tummy time takes practice. Consider shortening the initial sessions and gradually increasing them as your baby becomes more comfortable on his or her tummy. With patience and practice, you and your little one will be tummy time experts!