Around the early to mid 90’s, back sleeping was identified by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a way to lower a baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This concept brought about the launch of the “Back to Sleep” Campaign in 1994. It was not long after this that the phrase “Tummy Time” sprung up. Tummy time is defined as any time your baby spends on her tummy while awake and supervised. Since the initiation of that campaign, Pediatricians have been lobbying for parents to place babies on their backs to sleep and their tummies to play. Most would agree that this public health initiative is a good thing, and parents typically do very well with the first part of that recommendation. However many parents often struggle with the latter, due to their babies resisting tummy time because it’s difficult!
The best time to begin tummy time is at the moment of birth, with skin-to-skin contact with mom or dad- and it should continue throughout infancy. When she is placed on her tummy, a baby has to work very hard to lift her head against gravity. The more of her waking hours she spends in this position, the more she is helping to develop strength in her neck and back muscles. Over time, and with continued practice, she will begin to prop herself on her elbows, thereby strengthening her arm, shoulder and abdominal muscles, which are required for rolling, crawling, walking, and even handwriting! Yes, it really does begin this early!
Here are some ideas to make tummy time more enjoyable:
-Newborns: One of the most comforting and least stressful ways to have your newborn tolerate lying on her belly is to lay her on your chest when you are in a reclined position. This places her in and inclined position, allowing for a reduced strain against gravity; while the rhythmic rise and fall of your chest provides soothing and the skin-to-skin contact helps to hone her sense of touch.
-1-3 month olds: Place your baby up over a rolled up towel or blanket, with it supporting her upper chest under her armpits
Roll up a small blanket or towel and prop it across your baby’s chest under her armpits, giving support to her upper chest. The key is to keep her elbows under, but slightly in front of her shoulders. This will aid her in maintaining her head up in order to view her surroundings. Get down at eye-level-she loves looking at you!
-4 months and beyond: By this stage, your baby should be able to maintain “tummy time” for longer periods and with less frustration. Now is a great time to place her on a blanket in a safe, open space, with some motivating toys, or give him a mirror to look at herself. Watch as she begins to wiggle and shift her weight in order to explore her environment, and also getting in a total body workout!
If your baby starts to get fussy, try to engage with her to help her relax, but if she’s clearly had enough, give her a break. Don’t worry-even small bouts can be effective!
If you have questions or concerns about your baby’s development, give us a call at (318) 396-1969. We have clinics in West Monroe, Monroe, Ruston & Shreveport and will be happy to consult with you regarding your baby’s development.
Copyright © 2021 Melanie Massey Physical Therapy