Why Should I?
The time babies spend lying on their stomachs, or “tummy time,” is critical in helping them strengthen neck and back muscles that are needed for sitting independently. In addition, the more they reach and pivot during tummy time, the more they are developing core muscles and honing skills for crawling. Tummy time also can lessen the risk of developing flat spots on babies' heads from lying on their backs.
When Do I?
Babies can start tummy time from day one; however, the position is more comfortable for them once their umbilical cord stumps have fallen off. And around 3-4 months, babies will have a bit more head control to raise their heads and look around.
How Do I?
There are several easy ways to position a baby for tummy time.
Roll up a towel or receiving blanket and place it across her chest and under each arm pit so she can bear weight on her elbows and forearms.
Place baby on a nursing pillow so her chest is raised and arms are in front.
Use a wedge. Lots of daycare and therapy centers have small wedges. Lay the baby on the wedge with her shoulders at the tall end so her forearms rest on the floor.
These options can give her a stabile position and allow her to use her hands to interact with toys. Make sure you are always there supervising. You don't want any tummy time tumbles!
Now what can you do to make tummy time fun? Here are a few ideas to play with!
Place your baby in front of a mirror to encourage her to lift her head. It's fun to have a baby playmate looking back at you and doing what you’re doing! You can even place suction cup toys on the mirror for her to look at and reach for.
Lie in front of your baby so you are face-to-face with her as you talk and sing.
Use toys like NogginStik that have visual and auditory interest to capture and maintain a baby's attention.
Use toys that are tall to encourage a baby to look up. For instance, instead of placing a book flat on the floor in front of her, stand the book on end, propped open for her to see. Read it aloud for more attentive play.
What if she hates it? Recognize that everyone is frustrated at what she hasn't mastered and your baby is no different. Because tummy time requires more physical work than other positions, the first few occasions may not be happy smiley walks in the park. Use distraction methods of goofy faces, singing and toys to keep your baby on her tummy for little bits of time every day. Don't give up! Soon enough the muscles your baby builds during tummy time will lead to those walks in the park!
Written by Ellen Metrick, an independent toy industry consultant with a special education background and 30 years experience in the toy industry. Metrick works on ideation through post production assessment for toy companies and has written extensively on toys, play and child development.