The advent of the “Back to Sleep” program in 1994 recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has greatly decreased the incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by teaching parents to always place babies on their backs while they sleep. This has been a life-saving program. It has actually decreased the cases of SIDS by more than 50%! But parents were misinterpreting and believing that they could no longer lay infants on their tummy even while awake. So in 1996 the AAP came out with another recommendation that infants get daily, supervised playtime on their stomachs. Thus, the term Tummy Time was created.
Why Tummy Time?
We have even complicated the matter by having so many “devices” for babies to sit in, car seats, infant seats, swings. These increase the time a baby spends on their back. If a baby is allowed only to lie on her back she will get flattened areas in her head as the plates in her head are still soft and forming. It also can lead to delayed motor skills and delayed developmental milestones such as sitting up, holding her head up on her own and crawling. The guidelines are for sleep only. With an awake and fully supervised baby, tummy time is a needed activity for proper growth and development.
Tips and Tricks
While your baby is awake and FULLY supervised, place them on a blanket or mat on a firm surface (a carpeted floor works well). An infant under 2 months will struggle to raise their head and turn to look the other way. They may get a little fussy, but let them work at it for a couple of minutes before picking them up. If you expose them to this for short spurts several times a day, they will grow to like it. Increase your baby’s chance of staying in this position longer by getting down to his level and encouraging him with your voice, your face and a few stimulating toys to look at.
You can also provide tummy time on your lap with the infant lying across your knees. They will still be prompted to lift their head and look around which also helps to strengthen their neck, shoulder and back muscles. But, don’t use this as his sole source of tummy time as the hard surface version works much better.
Start out with a few seconds (15-30) if you have a fussy baby and work your way up to 30 minutes at a time. A good time to start tummy time is anywhere from 2-3 weeks old, but you can start right after birth on your chest with skin to skin time. You can help by rolling up a towel or using a nursing pillow to place under infant’s chest to help hold them up. Just make sure that if their heads fall forward that they have plenty of room to breathe.
Tummy Time Benefits
- Increased back, shoulder and neck strength.
- Allows baby to see the world in a different perspective.
- Helps babies to master important developmental milestones (holding head up, sitting up, crawling and more)
- Decreases “flat head” syndrome. This has become more prevalent since we started putting babies on their backs to sleep.
- Encourages fine motor development while they grasp at the blanket beneath them.
Enjoy your baby’s tummy time. It’s a great time to interact with him and play.
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