“While it is important to place your baby on his back for sleep, it’s also important to make sure that as he gets older, he gets some tummy time. Tummy time should take place when your infant is awake and alert. Place him on his tummy on a solid surface such as the floor. Place a toy in front of him and engage him in play. Doing this regularly will help strengthen the muscles in his neck. It also will help prevent your baby from developing a flat spot on the back of his head. Prolonged time spent lying on his back can cause the back of his head to flatten. While this condition doesn’t cause any developmental problems, a misshapen head can look odd. So be sure your baby gets some tummy time each day.”
~American Academy of Pediatrics
Some parents may think tummy time is a new fad, but in fact it is not. Before the realization that sleeping on tummies was unsafe, many babies spent most of their time curled up sleeping on their tummies. In fact, doctors used to recommend putting your baby to sleep on their tummy. The importance of tummy time is now being stressed due to the success of the Back to Sleep campaign. Now that we know babies who sleep on their back are at a lower risk of SIDS, babies are spending less time on their tummies. We need to make up this tummy time by reminding parents why it is important to a baby’s development .
Beginning the first day your baby is home from the hospital, you should place him on his belly for 3-5 minutes 2-3 times each day. Note: Babies need to be under constant supervision when placed on their tummies!! As your baby builds tolerance you can lengthen the amount of time he spends on his tummy. It is important to start tummy time from the beginning of your child’s life so they grow accustomed to it. As mentioned above, if they spend too much time on their back because they are not accustomed to tummy time, they can develop a misshapen head. In addition, tummy time encourages an infant to lift her head, a movement that strengthens the muscles of the neck and upper back. Your baby will need those muscles later on for rolling over, sitting, and crawling.
(The above photo on the left shows the flat head that can occur when baby does not receive ample tummy time. The photo on the right is just a couple month later after baby has had daily tummy time.)
How Can I Exercise The Baby While He Is On His Tummy?
There are lots of ways to play with the baby while he is on his tummy.
1. Place yourself or a toy just out of the baby’s reach during playtime to get him to reach for you or the toy.
2. Place toys in a circle around the baby. Reaching to different points in the circle will allow him to develop the appropriate muscles to roll over, scoot on his belly, and crawl.
3.Lie on your back and place the baby on your chest. The baby will lift his head and use his arms to try to see your face.
4. While being watched by an adult or caregiver, have a young child play with the baby while on his tummy. Young children can get down on the floor easily. They generally have energy for playing with babies, may really enjoy their role as the “big kid,” and are likely to have fun themselves.
~American Academy of Pediatrics