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The Ultimate Guide to Tummy Time​

Did you know that many newborn babies spend 20+ hours a day sleeping on their back?

Being on their backs so much, it becomes important for your little one to​ get a little time on their tummy as well.

Are you wondering how often you should give your little one tummy time? Are you looking for some tips & tricks for how to get your little one started?

What is Tummy Time?

As the term implies, tummy time is the time that you set aside for your child to spend on their tummy.

It is an important part of your child's development.

In fact, the American Physical Therapy Association is encouraging parents to give children more tummy time because a lack of this important time is linked to motor skills developing late in children.

When Should Tummy Time Start?

Tummy time is important, so you should try to start getting your infant accustomed to it almost immediately after they come home for the first time.

If they do not seem to be ready, then start their tummy time before they are a month old.

When you do start, you do not need to place your baby on the hard floor. When they are young like this, you can have tummy time on your tummy or your lap.

As long as they are laying on their tummy, this counts as tummy time. At first, it will probably only last for a few minutes at a time.

When your baby starts to become more comfortable with tummy time, you can extend how long you are giving them. Don't exceed a few minutes for a newborn, but a baby who is a few months old should have at least 20 minutes of tummy time.

Make sure that you avoid tummy time when your baby is tired so that they do not become cranky or simply try to go to sleep.

If your baby has had an exciting day, you may want to give them a bit of time to relax before you attempt tummy time because it can cause them to be overwhelmed. The world is new to your baby, so don't over stimulate them.

If your baby is uncomfortable, tummy time is not going to be successful. Make sure that their diaper is clean and dry before putting them down on their tummy.

If they just ate, try burping your baby first so that they do not experience any gas or discomfort while their food is digesting.

The last thing that you need is to clean up spit up or vomit because their stomach was irritated during tummy time.

However, sometimes these things are unavoidable, so if your baby does become ill, pick them up and comfort them. Tummy time can wait until they are feeling better.

Is Tummy Time Safe?

Tummy time can be a sensitive topic for many moms, especially those who are new to parenting, because of SIDS (or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

When a baby under a year old falls asleep on their stomach, the chances of them suffocating increases, which is why babies should always sleep on their backs.

Tummy time is safe for your baby because they are awake and alert during the time that they are on their stomachs.

In addition, you will be watching your baby the entire time, so if their breathing seems to be hindered in any way, you are going to be right there to correct the problem.

Benefits of Tummy Time

Tummy time is actually very beneficial to a child who is developing, mainly because when you lie on your stomach, you need to hold your head upright.

During this stage in your baby's life, they are just learning how to lift their head and hold it up by themselves. Tummy time helps your little one develop their neck and shoulder muscles so that they can hold their head up by themselves.

An infant who is able to develop the muscles in their neck and back more quickly will have a decreased risk of SIDS because they can simply lift their heads if they have difficulties breathing.

Once your baby learns to hold their head up on their own, they will soon be able to control the rest of their body as well.

This means that a baby who has the tummy time that they need will learn to roll over more quickly than children who lay on their backs most of the time. Rolling over leads to scooting on the floor, and before you know it, your baby will be crawling around the floor on their own.

It is also a great way for your little one to develop their hand-eye coordination, especially if toys are included in their tummy time. Did you know that babies can have twisted necks because of their positioning in the womb?

This is called torticollis, and it can also occur from the stress of actually being born as well as spending too much time on their back.

If a child does have torticollis, they need to stretch their neck out so that the muscles can repair themselves. A full body stretch can be achieved during tummy time.

In addition, your baby's head is going to be soft at the beginning of their life, which is normal.

There will be a soft spot on the top of their head because their skull was not fully formed before birth, which allowed them to come through the birth canal a little bit easier.

The downside of having a soft head is that when you lay your baby down to sleep, which can be up to 20 hours a day, they are lying on the same spot of their head.

Your baby may develop flat head syndrome, which is effectively what happens when your baby's head becomes misshapen.

Tummy time gives them time off of their back. It gives their skull a break and allows it to bounce back into the position that it should be.

Lastly, tummy time is a special bonding time that you can share with your baby. When they are young, tummy time can be spent on your tummy.

Skin to skin touch is important for an infant. When you touch a hormone called oxytocin is released to help strengthen the bond between you and your baby.

Tricks to Get My Baby to Enjoy Tummy Time

If your baby is having a hard time adjusting to tummy time, make sure that you take it slow.

Give them time to adapt to being on their stomach for a short period of time before you attempt longer sessions that may make them uncomfortable.

You can also use your baby's feeding time to get them used to being on their stomach. When you are breastfeeding your infant, lie on your back and let them lay on your stomach.

This works great for mothers who have larger breasts, and it gives them a lot of skin to skin contact, which is great for younger children.

The sound of your voice and your heartbeat is something that your baby is familiar with, so being in this position can make them feel safe.

Another great way to encourage tummy time is to lay your baby across your lap or forearm after they are done eating. In this position, you can comfort them as you burp them.

If tummy time is difficult when they are a bit older, you can also get on the floor with them.

Maybe your baby has become accustomed to having tummy time on your lap or stomach, so laying on the floor may make them miss the closeness that tummy time represented for them. Continue to make this time a bonding time for your baby.

You can also use a pillow to help your little one feel more secure. Being placed face down can be frightening, and a pillow is a great way to angle their little body so that your baby can see around them and take in their surroundings more easily.

Including Siblings in Tummy Time

If you have another child who wants to play with their younger brother or sister all the time, tummy time is a great way to have them play together.

As your baby is learning to hold their head up on their own, you can have your toddler lie on their stomach in front of them and play peek-a-boo. Every time your baby lifts their head up, have your toddler say peek-a-boo.

You can also have your older children dance and try to entertain your baby while they are having tummy time.

A young child will have a lot of fun trying to make their younger sibling laugh, and it will help them burn off some of their energy so that they are more willing to take an afternoon nap.

Getting a Tummy Time Aid

There are a lot of tummy time aids that can be useful to a youngster.

A towel is a great place for tummy time, but if you get a mat for your baby, then they will be more entertained during tummy time.

They are well padded, colorful, and they offer a lot of stimulation for your baby. If you are not sure what to look for, check out these ideas for your baby.

It is also a great idea to purchase a tummy time mat that is waterproof and easy to clean. Babies slobber, spit up, and throw up on the regular, so being able to wipe up messes quickly will make life a lot easier for you.

We talked about using a pillow during tummy time, but you should make sure that it is a firm pillow that is capable of supporting your baby's chest. Some of the mats that are available for purchase include a u-shaped pillow that combines the two concepts for a more comfortable tummy time for your baby.

Nursing pillows also offer a good amount of support.

When your baby is able to hold their head up, consider getting a play mirror that they can use during tummy time.

Most babies like to look at faces, even if the face is their own, so placing a mirror in front of them can give them the opportunity to look at and interact with someone who always smiles back when they smile.

If you can add stimulation to your baby's tummy time, their brain will develop more quickly.

Sights, sounds, and textures will help your baby learn how to play independently. This is great for developing their mind as well as their comfort level.

If you are a busy mom, a baby sling is a great way to give your baby skin to skin contact while you do the things that you need to do during the day.

Keeping your baby close to you throughout the day allows you to ensure that they are safe, but it also gives them the tummy time and the physical contact that they need to have with you.

What to do During Tummy Time

When your child is about a month old, you should spend tummy time looking at them.

Your baby will respond to your voice, especially if you hold your face close to them. Also, make sure to smile at your baby a lot because they will try to smile back at you at this age.

When your baby is about two months old, they are going to start following objects with their eyes, so this is a good time to try to incorporate noisy toys as a distraction during tummy time on the floor.

Soon, at about three months old, your baby will be able to hold their head up on their own for a short period of time as well as push their upper body off of the floor to see more of their surroundings.

This is the best age to start incorporating toys that have reflective surfaces on them for their enjoyment.

At about five months, your baby will be able to sit with some assistance and roll with ease, so you should start incorporating that motion into tummy time as well. You can place their toys slightly out of reach so that they have to roll slightly to grab on to them.

Encourage your baby to move, let them squirm, and crawling should follow shortly.

If you prefer, tummy time can be a more relaxing time for your little one. Instead of playing with toys, you can read to them while they are on their tummy.

If you have other children, this is a great way to keep them and your baby entertained.You can also listen to music during tummy time as a way to relax. If your baby is bouncing to the music, encourage them to dance as much as possible.

Moving their arms and legs when they hear music is a great way to help develop their hand-eye coordination.

Tummy time can be a relaxing experience for your baby as well. Get some baby oils that are safe for small children, and massage their little neck and back as they are lying on their tummy.

Wrapping Up

Tummy time is important a very important activity for babies.

From the time you get them home from the hospital to the time when they can sit by themselves, you need to make sure that they get the time that they need.

This may be scary for a baby at first, so here are some tips that you can follow to make it easier for them and you.

  • Don't force tummy time. Ease into it, making each session slightly longer than the last.
  • Incorporate a pillow, a mat, and toy to help your baby get used to tummy time.
  • Toys are great, but sometimes you can simply read, listen to music, or massage your baby.
  • Tummy time is about skin to skin contact and bonding with your little one, so if they are uncomfortable on the floor, try your stomach or even a sling that holds them close to you and gets them off of their back for a while.
  • Remember to always watch your baby during tummy time to ensure that they are safe, and never allow them to sleep during this time.
  • If your baby is sleepy, cranky, or they need their diaper changed, it may be best to postpone tummy time until the timing is a little better.
  • Spend tummy time with your baby, and if you have other kids, try to include them as well.
Kate Trout

Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place to learn all about practical parenting tips, baby care tricks, and healthy-living hacks for new and expecting moms.

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