Start Early to Prevent Delays
Babies should always be placed to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS, but from day one it is just as important to give them plenty of opportunities to play on their tummy when they are awake. Babies who do not get enough tummy time risk having poor neck and shoulder muscles, developing flat spots on the back of their heads (called plagiocephaly) and are at risk for developmental delays including delays in rolling, crawling and pulling to stand; as well as, delays later in life such as poor coordination and hand writing skills.
Tummy Time Tips
Tummy time should start from day one aiming for 30 minutes which can be broken up throughout the day. Place your newborn on their tummy on a blanket on a firm surface for a few minutes while you rub their back and talk with them. If they are fussy in this position you can lay your baby face down on your chest as you recline in a chair or bed for a little tummy snuggle time. As a newborn they are also small enough to carry lying across your arms on their tummy with their head fully supported in your hand. These activities will help your baby get used to spending time on their tummy.
Tummy Time Fun & Games
As your infant begins to hold their head up you can lay them on a blanket on the floor, over a boppy pillow, or even lying across your lap. To encourage your infant to hold their head up and push through their elbows get down on the floor with them – play peek a boo, sing songs, dance, hold up a mirror, anything that will entertain them for a few minutes. If your infant starts to get fussy and even distractions aren’t helping anymore help your infant roll onto their back for a little break. Once they are happy again help them to roll back onto their tummy to see if you can encourage a few more minutes. By helping your infant to roll instead of just picking them up when they get fussy you are teaching them not only to roll, but also that they have control over what position they are in. If your infant seems to have trouble pushing onto their elbows, roll a small towel or receiving blanket and place it under their chest. This will give them a little bit of support so they can practice holding their head up and make tummy time a little less stressful.
From Fussing to Moving
Even if your baby fusses at first, keep trying a little bit throughout the day. As your baby gets stronger they will fuss less and start to move more.
Article written by Michelle C., Physical Therapist