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Tummy time is extremely important for your baby’s healthy growth and development.
However, it is often very challenging for parents to fit enough into their baby’s daily routine.
There are several reasons for this.
First of all, some babies HATE tummy time.
There is also the issue of safety. If there are older children or pets in the family, it can be difficult for parents to find a safe time to have baby on the floor.
Then there are some babies who are extremely prone to spitting up, so finding the ideal time after a feeding but while baby is awake, can also be a challenge for parents.
So, with all the challenges, how can you get more tummy time with your baby?
Later in the post, I share some of my favorite tips and tricks to help solve this common dilemma.
But first, let’s do a little Q & A.
Tummy Time Q & A
Why is Tummy Time Important?
Since the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) began recommending that babies be placed “back to sleep” more than a decade ago, the rate of sudden infant death syndrome has dramatically declined.
However, more infants are now developing flat spots on the back of their skull called positional plagiocephaly.
In addition, always lying on the back can delay motor development since a baby gets less of a chance to work the muscles in his upper body.
Without this special exercise time on his belly, your baby may not master such basic skills as lifting his head and turning over.
He is also at risk for developmental delays for normal infant milestones such as sitting, crawling, and walking. So you see, tummy time is extremely important!
When Should We Start Tummy Time?
According to the AAP, parents should initiate tummy time when babies are newborns.
Parents should start by placing baby tummy-down on their chest or across their lap for a few minutes, so she gets accustomed to this position. (Avoid doing this right after a feeding since pressure on her tummy may cause her to spit up.)
Ideally, this should happen when your baby is most awake and alert, such as after a diaper change or nap.
You can also try supervising while baby is tummy sleeping for a few minutes each day.
How Much is Necessary?
In the early weeks, a good goal for newborn tummy time should be three 3-minute sessions per day.
As baby gets older and stronger, slowly increase that time, working up to a total of 20 minutes each day. Remember, these 20 minutes do NOT need to be all at once!
By approximately 4 months of age, many babies can lift their chests off the floor, leaning on their elbows while holding up their heads.
Some babies can even lift their arms off the floor, arch their backs and kick their feet.
It’s not unusual that babies at this time will accidentally lean to one side, lose their balance and roll from their tummies onto their backs.
By 5 or 6 months, you will begin to notice your baby pivoting and reaching for toys and maybe even moving or scooting!
Make sure that your baby is placed on a low, solid surface so there is no danger of her falling or rolling onto the floor.
Putting baby on the floor on top of a blanket or mat is the safest. Avoid placing baby on a couch or bed.
If you have other children or pets, make sure that they do not pose a threat to baby’s safety while on the floor.
Never leave your baby unattended while on her belly.
Remember that a sleeping baby on her tummy is at greater risk for suffocation or greater risk for SIDS.
If she falls asleep in this position, place her on her back to sleep as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Read about the “Safe to Sleep Campaign” here.
Never place a swaddled baby on his tummy. Without the free use of his arms, he is not able to freely move his head and thus increases his risk of suffocation.
What if My Baby Hates Being on His Tummy?
Many babies initially protest when placed face down on their bellies.
Why? Usually because they are not used to being in this position. But also because it’s strenuous work to hold their heads up against gravity.
Aim for three minutes for each session, but if your baby complains loudly, just begin with one minute or two and slowly increase that time.
Eventually your baby will get used to being on his stomach and start to enjoy it.
Help him to see tummy time as part of regular play and not a chore.
10 Great Tummy Time Hacks!
Tips and Tricks to Get More Tummy Time with Your Baby
Be Creative! To qualify as “Tummy Time” it does not only mean that your baby needs to be on the floor. Here are some tips and creative ways to get those 20 minutes in each day!
1. Don’t Wait!
Your baby will get used to being on his tummy if you are able to begin early. The first day of life is not too early! Start the first couple weeks by laying him on your chest skin-to-skin. No newborn will ever refuse this special snuggle time with a parent!
2. Baby on Top
Even older babies love this! Lay on your back with your baby on your stomach, her head facing yours, then talk to her. She will try to lift up her head to see your face. This works great for babies who “hate” tummy floor time.
3. Baby Over Lap
Many newborns will enjoy being laid over a lap face down while having their backs rubbed or patted. This can be another great introduction to tummy time!
4. Baby Over Shoulder
Who says that tummy time is only on the floor! Remember, a primary goal of tummy time is to build upper body and neck strength and this can also be accomplished when your baby is being held. Try sitting back in a semi-reclined position to allow your baby’s head to be safely unsupported while he learns to hold himself up.
5. Play Time!
Make time on the tummy synonymous with play time! Put lots of toys down on the floor for baby to look at and try to grab. Try these other fun ideas…
6. Tummy Time Mat
There are also some really fun play mats that babies enjoy like this one.
If you are expecting, you can plan ahead and add these fun play mats to your Baby Registry.
7. Use Fun Toys
Place brightly colored stuffed animals and toys around your baby while on the floor and encourage her to reach for and play with them.
8. Face-to-Face Time
Get on the floor with your baby! Your baby really enjoys seeing your face, so get down on the floor and lay face-to-face with her and let her see your smiling face to encourage her. She will eventually love this special play time with you! While on the floor with your baby, make goofy noises and expressions, or sing songs to her. This will serve as a welcomed distraction from her tough workout!
9. Chest Padding
For extra padding, try rolling up a small receiving blanket and tuck it under his chest. Placing your baby on a Boppy Pillow so that the pillow is under baby’s chest and arms are over the pillow also works great! Babies prefer this position over being flat on the floor because they can see much better. Stay close by to make sure that your baby doesn’t “face plant” in this position, though! This play mat includes a chest cushion which is another great solution.
10. Keep Trying!
Don’t give up! Babies grow and change so quickly, Start with what works today and keep trying to introduce your baby to new tummy time ideas. If he seems to dislike tummy time one day (or one hour), he may not mind it the next! There are so many variables that can affect his mood from day to day or hour to hour… hungry, tired, over-tired, over-stimulated, gassy, etc. Stay positive and keep trying!
Have you tried any of these (or other) ideas for tummy time that have worked for you? I’d love to hear your comments or ideas for what you have tried! Please share your ideas to help new mamas! Thanks so much!
Related: Is Your Baby at Risk for Flat Head Syndrome?
Related: 8 Ways to Prevent Plagiocephaly