A New Mom’s Guide to Tummy Time

March 24, 2019 | By Shawnna Stiver | Category: Health, Infant

It’s the moment all parents have been waiting for: tummy time! Aside from being an adorable photo op, tummy time — placing a baby on his or her stomach while you supervise — is actually an important step for your newborn. After being on their backs for so long, babies need to practice using their neck muscles for development and motor skills. If you’re not sure what it is or why it’s important, these tummy time tips will help. This is a new mom’s guide to tummy time.

What is tummy time?

At first thought, tummy time may seem to contradict what parents have always heard about keeping babies on their backs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has always advised babies sleep on their backs to avoid the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But after being on their backs for extended periods of time, babies can develop flat spots on the back of their skull. Other risks of not doing tummy time include a delay of motor development and strengthening upper body, including neck and shoulder muscles. Visible milestones like lifting his head, crawling, sitting and walking can all be affected if your baby does not practice tummy time regularly.

When is the right time to start tummy time?

You should start doing tummy time while your baby is still a newborn. The best time for practicing tummy time is when he’s awake and alert after a diaper change or nap. Avoid doing tummy time right after he’s had a feeding as the pressure on his abdomen could cause him to spit up.

How do you get babies used to tummy time?

Introduce your little one by starting out for a few minutes belly-down on your chest or across your lap. In the beginning, limit tummy time to two or three 3-minute sessions each day until he gets stronger. As he develops strength, lengthen the time you let him be on his tummy and try having him practice on the floor or a play mat. Tummy time should not exceed 20 minutes and should always be supervised. By 4 months, your baby should be able to lift his chest up and lean on his elbows, or lift his arms and kick his feet. Learning to roll over onto his back is another tummy time milestone your baby should reach by 5 or 6 months of age. As coordination increases, most babies will continue to try new skills.

Be aware that some babies hate to be on their tummies at first. It is hard to keep their heads up, and takes a lot of work. If your little one initially refuses, try to ease him into it with shorter times at first. He’ll eventually get used to it and will have fun. The key is to make sure it’s a consistent part of everyday playing.

Activities to include with tummy time

The best chance of getting your baby to enjoy tummy time is by making the experience as enjoyable as possible. Eye contact and toys can help tremendously. Try having him on your stomach and talk to him, he will try to lift his head up to see you. Have stuffed animals nearby when your baby is on his tummy and have him reach for them. Or place a mirror underneath his chest and watch as he’ll lift his head up to see his reflection. A rolled up blanket under his chest can also help with propping him up as he gains his neck strength.  

Keep your little one safe with these tips

While tummy time is designed to strengthen your baby’s upper body and help develop motor skills, there are things to avoid. Never practice on a surface where your baby could roll off and fall. It’s best to keep him on the floor with a blanket or mat. Keep pets and other children away during tummy time for your child’s safety. And tummy time should always be supervised to avoid your baby getting into a position where he could suffocate. If he seems drowsy, it’s time to put him back on his back during a nap.

Tummy time gives your baby a chance to experience a different position. Use these tips to do it safely and make the whole process fun.

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