Tummy time, though seemingly unenjoyable for infants at first, can be a fun and bonding experience for you and baby. It is also crucial for baby’s development. Muscles grow stronger, motor skills improve, and little by little, baby gains more control over their body. With time, he or she will start to scoot, push up, roll over, and eventually crawl. Tummy time also reduces the risk that your baby will experience a skull malformation from spending too much time on their back. But how do you start, and when? What do you do when your baby hates tummy time or becomes bored too quickly? Try one (or all) of these 10 tips for tummy time.
1. Start Early
While parents may be apprehensive about placing their baby into tummy time too soon, early floor time introduction can help to curb common issues, such as fussiness. Just remember not to leave your baby unattended during tummy time and be willing to try different times of the day, various techniques, and engage in floor time consistently to continue reaping the benefits.
2. Try a Nursing Pillow
Babies can sometimes become frustrated during tummy time because they do not have the head control to look around and take in new stimuli. By using a nursing pillow, you give them a better view. Carefully positioning your baby on a pillow also pulls their head up off the ground; that, too, can be a source of fussiness for newborns.
3. Combine Kangaroo Care and Tummy Time
Kangaroo care is often used for premature infants, but it can be beneficial for any baby. Studies suggest that it can promote faster weight gain and improve your baby’s ability to regulate their own heart rate and body temperature. It’s also a great bonding opportunity and a way to let baby practice tummy time, stress-free. Because he or she is on your chest, they are far more likely to be relaxed than if they were on the floor or in a play yard.
4. Use Different Holding Positions
Cradle holds are the most commonly used for newborns, but did you know there are a plethora of other carrying methods you can use – some that can promote head control and muscle growth, just like in tummy time? Try laying baby over your forearm, face out, head resting in the crook of your arm and your hand on their bottom. Think of it is an outside-facing, upside-down football hold of sorts. In this position, your baby is free to move his or her head, but they also have the support of your arm and body.
5. Burping Can Mimic Tummy Time
Just as you can use different carrying holds to mimic tummy time, you can also use different burping positions. Try laying baby across your knees, or have them sit with their head and body supported in your hand and against your arm. Though at first, your baby may not move much, over time, he or she will start to look around and notice the world around them. Once they do, they will start to use their head more, which can give them some of the same benefits as tummy time.
6. Use Well-Placed, Visually Engaging Stimuli
Boredom is tummy time’s worst enemy, so make sure you have some well-placed, visually engaging stimuli on hand whenever you and baby do tummy time. Start with contrasting black and white items that are close by but just out of reach. Then, as your baby grows, move to colorful toys, geometric shapes, and toys with lights and sounds. Also, once your baby starts to scoot, roll, or move, you’ll want to place the toys further out of reach to encourage more mobility.
7. Patience and Persistence are Key
Perhaps the most difficult part of tummy time is remembering to be both persistent and patient. If you find yourself struggling, try to remember that it really is crucial for their health and development and babies only become more comfortable with being on their tummies when they practice. Your patience will pay off
8. Take Tummy Time to Go
Tummy time can go with you anywhere – and you don’t even need anything fancy! Just always carry a few toys and a nice, big blanket in your diaper bag and your baby will always have a soft place to play and practice all those wonderful tummy time skills.
9. Give a Tummy Time Massage
Just like with tummy time and kangaroo care, tummy time massages – after bath or just because – can also encourage your baby to relax and enjoy being on their belly. Just be considerate of skin allergies or sensitivities when choosing lotions or oils.
10. Remember “Back to Sleep”
As important as tummy time is, parents must also remember that tummy time is a supervised activity. Babies should never be left unattended while in tummy time – either as newborns or when they start to crawl – or placed on their tummies to sleep. Doing so can increase your baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and/or serious injury.