As a new parent, you have most likely been researching for months to prepare for your new baby. From sleeping to feeding, diaper changes, when to start tummy time, and everything in between, you want to make sure you are helping your little one grow and develop safely and appropriately.
With so much information available, it can seem overwhelming and often leave you with more questions. If you are looking for a deeper understanding of what tummy time is, when to start tummy time, or how to do tummy time, you are in the right place.
What Is Tummy Time?
Tummy time is an essential part of both the physical and cognitive development of your baby. Quite simply, tummy time is placing your baby on their stomach a few times a day. Placing your baby on their stomach should only be done when your baby is awake and in a safe and clear space with parental supervision.
What Are The Benefits Of Tummy Time?
Scheduling structured tummy time into your baby’s daily schedule offers a variety of benefits for your child. In addition to strengthening the muscles in your baby’s neck and shoulders, supervised and structured tummy time also helps to promote and develop critical motor skills, like sitting and crawling.
And with the current recommendation from The American Academy of Pediatrics to have babies sleep on their backs, tummy time is the most effective way to prevent flat spots from forming on the back of your baby’s head, otherwise known as positional plagiocephaly, as well as torticollis or twisted neck.
Countless studies and research have proven that having your baby spend time on their stomachs is also vital to encouraging and supporting brain growth and development. One such study published in Development Medicine and Child Neurology found that when healthy infants spend time on their tummy, they achieve developmental milestones significantly earlier than infants who do not.
When To Start Tummy Time
You may be surprised to learn that the answer to when to start tummy time is on day one! As soon as you and your little one arrive home from the hospital, you can begin practicing and engaging in structured tummy time. But don’t worry if your baby is currently older or if you haven’t started regular tummy time with your child, however. The next best answer to when to start tummy time is now!
Generally, the best times to do tummy time are after your baby wakes up from a nap, after a fresh diaper change, or during times when your baby is awake and alert. You want to ensure your infant is not sleepy, hungry, or uncomfortable. This will help to give you and your baby the best conditions for a successful tummy time.
How Much Tummy Time Does My Baby Need?
Tummy time is something that you and your baby will practice daily, multiple times a day. Remember that one of the major benefits of tummy time is building muscle strength and motor skills. Ultimately, the goal is to work up to 30 minutes of tummy time a day by the time your little one is three months old and continue until your baby starts crawling on their own.
Because tummy time is recommended to begin as soon as your baby gets home from the hospital, you should introduce it in more frequent, shorter sessions. As little as 1-2 minutes long, multiple times a day, is an excellent way to start getting your baby accustomed to spending time on their bellies. As your baby gets more comfortable and begins to build endurance, you can start increasing the length of each session.
Every baby will react differently to being positioned on their stomach, and you may find that your little one is uncomfortable, fussy, or unhappy at first. Don’t panic or worry. These are all completely normal and very common reactions for babies to experience in the beginning.
Consistency, variety, and a little patience, both with yourself and your little one, will go a long way in making tummy time a success in your home.
How to Do Tummy Time
There are many different ways to implement tummy time into your baby’s daily schedule, especially when you are just starting out. You may want to try different tummy time techniques to see which one is most comfortable for your new baby initially.
Any of these tummy time methods are an excellent way for your baby to start reaping the many benefits it has to offer.
1. Include Tummy Time In Diaper Changes– After you change your baby’s diaper, place them on their stomach for a minute while you stand next to them. This will make it easy to ensure you are introducing tummy time multiple times a day and help your baby get used to it as part of their daily routine.
2. Make Tummy Time A Part Of Your Bonding Time– You can practice tummy time by lying your baby on their belly on your chest or stomach. Make sure to lie down on the floor or safely in bed and place your baby on their stomach on your chest. This is a beautiful way to combine skin-to-skin contact and make it a bonding experience for you both.
3. The Football Hold- Holding your baby in this position is a great way to soothe your baby, and as a bonus, it also counts as tummy time!
4. Floor Time- This is the most common way for babies to practice tummy time, and as they get older will be the most convenient and beneficial way. Place a clean blanket on the floor in a safe area and place your baby down on their stomach. Be sure to lie down with them at eye level to help with engagement and to encourage your little one.
Make Tummy Time Fun
One of the ways tummy time benefits your baby is by giving them a different perspective of the world. Enhancing their tummy time experience with different sights, sounds, and experiences can help make tummy time more enjoyable, and in some cases, more tolerable for your little one.
There is no limit to the ways you can make tummy time exciting. You may want to try introducing new toys or sensory objects in front of your baby and rubbing them against their arms or hands, and placing them just out of reach. Tummy time is a great time to get down on the floor with your little one and play peek-a-boo, make silly faces, or just engage in eye contact and smiling.
Use props to make your baby more comfortable and to help them see more of what’s around them. A rolled-up blanket under their chest or a nursing pillow are great options to give your little one some added support. Use mirrors and brightly colored books or toys to entertain your baby and keep them engaged. You can also find plenty of tummy time activities – like the one above – on Kinedu.
If your little one has siblings, encourage them to participate and model reaching, stretching, and playing for your baby. Get creative and remember to have fun.
Tummy Time Takes Time
Remember that while when to start tummy time is important, and sooner is always better, how to do tummy time effectively for your baby is something that you and your little one get to discover together.
Always be kind to yourself, take the time to enjoy the moment, and keep trying different positions, times, and activities to make tummy time a regular part of your baby’s daily growth, discovery, and development. And if you need extra help, you can always count on the Kinedu app to help you with activity ideas and to provide guidance from qualified experts. Download it for free here.