Babies are delicate beings. They need to be taken care of from the moment they are born. Special attention needs to be given to newborns when they are sleeping. Babies need to be closely monitored during their sleep time. Care should be taken not to stuff cradles or cribs with too many pillows, blankets, or soft toys to avoid the danger of suffocation. To reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies should always be placed on their backs while sleeping (1).
While these measures are certainly helpful to ensure your baby’s safety during sleep, another important factor gets ignored in the process. It’s the baby’s tummy time. It is when you can put your baby on his/her tummy while your baby is awake. Tummy time also has to be monitored throughout the entire duration. Since babies are made to sleep on their backs most of the time, parents are unaware of the importance of putting them on their tummies. So, here are a few facts about it:
When Can I Start Tummy Time For My Baby?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that soon after getting the baby from the hospital, parents should put their baby on his/her stomach and play with the baby. Start with 3-5 minutes of playtime on tummy each day before gradually increasing the duration. Keep increasing the frequency and duration for the next few months until your baby starts getting at least one hour of monitored tummy time each day (2).
Why Is Tummy Time Important? (3)
Regular tummy time is beneficial for your baby due to these factors:
- It prevents flat spots at the back of your baby’s head.
- Develops stronger shoulder and neck muscles. This helps your baby to sit up, crawl, and walk.
- Improves your baby’s developing motor skills.
Ways To Encourage Tummy Time If Your Baby Hates It
It is quite possible that your baby may not like to be put on his/her belly right away. While some babies might adapt to it easily and might even enjoy it, some might feel uncomfortable with the whole exercise. Here’s what you can do to encourage your baby:
- After you’ve placed the baby on the tummy, get to the baby’s eye level and engage in some talk or play.
- Keep a mirror-like substance (unbreakable) in front of your baby. Babies are usually fascinated by shiny substances.
- Place your baby’s favorite toys all around and at a little distance. This will make your baby reach out for the toy, thus helping in developing motor skills.
- Place a nursing pillow or a firm tummy-time pillow underneath your baby’s chest and arms to prop him/her up. This will give some support to your baby without tiring them out.
- Place your baby belly-down either on your stomach or chest and play with him/her.
Ways To Do Tummy Time
The best way to do tummy time is by introducing it early and gradually.
- Time your baby’s tummy time soon after the baby wakes up or just had a nappy change.
- Before jumping right into it, introduce your baby to a few seconds of tummy time during every diaper change.
- The area where you place the baby for tummy time should be clean and soft. You can also spread a thin play mat and place your baby on the tummy.
- Try and keep your baby on the belly for a minimum of 3 to 5 minutes, for at least 2 or 3 times a day.
- Once your baby starts enjoying tummy time, you can gradually increase the duration.
- Make sure you are always around when your baby is on the belly. Never leave your baby on the tummy, unsupervised. If you are busy, ask a trustworthy person to look after your baby while you run an errand.
- Don’t put your baby on the belly soon after a feeding session.
- Do not put your baby to sleep on the belly at any point during the day or night.
We bet you didn’t know how important tummy time was for you baby. Now that you do, make sure you indulge your baby in some playful tummy time every day. However, practice caution while doing so and follow the tummy-time tips to reap its benefits.