If you have, or ever have had, a newborn baby in your home, there’s a good chance you’ve heard all about tummy time. But what is tummy time, why do babies need it, and how can we make it enjoyable for little ones who aren’t fans at first? We’ll dive into all of the answers below!
What Is Tummy Time?
Tummy time is just what it sounds like — when your baby spends time on their tummy instead of their back. Most little ones prefer to lay on their back at a young age, simply because they cannot yet hold up their heads. Laying on their front side can be challenging, frustrating, and even a little bit scary for new babies, so it can take some time to get the routine running smoothly.
Why Do Babies Need Tummy Time?
Even though it may not be your baby’s favorite time of day, tummy time is extremely important. Some of the main benefits include:
- Improves babies’ fine and gross motor skills.
- Builds muscle in the neck and shoulders, which later help children learn to sit, crawl, and walk.
- Helps prevent new flat spots from forming on the back and sides of babies’ heads.
Tummy time also helps keep babies safe while they sleep. When they get to the age of rolling over, you’ll know they are strong enough to lift their heads as needed during the night, no matter what position they are lying in.
How Much Tummy Time Do Babies Need?
The Mayo Clinic suggests starting tummy time as soon as you and your baby get home from the hospital, or as soon as their umbilical cord falls off if pressure seems to hinder its healing. They recommend starting with 3-5 minutes at a time, and doing this 2-3 times every single day.
This may seem like a lot, but it won’t feel like much for your baby since it's broken down into short time sessions.
If your baby enjoys tummy time, there’s no need to pick them right up when the five minute timer goes off. You can let them explore their surroundings in the prone position for as long as they’re content. As they grow older, the time frames are sure to increase.
Tips and Tricks to Make Tummy Time Fun for Everyone
If your young baby doesn’t like tummy time, try laying down on your back and letting them lay on your belly or chest. You can also lay them across your thighs while you sit on the couch. Just be sure to keep your hands on them for stability the entire time — you never know when that first roll will occur. They may even roll over as the result of a newborn reflex days or weeks after birth.
For older babies, some creativity can go a long way. In the first three months, black and white contrast cards, or books propped open, can grab their attention for quite some time. This is because newborns are building optical nerves at this stage, and they can see best in grayscale.
Teething toys may be a good distraction as their tiny gums start to get sore.
You can also get creative by providing:
- Story time
- A mirror to look at themselves
- Sensory items, such as shallow water in a cookie tray or paint in a ziploc bag
- Household items like spatulas, plastic bowls, or the tv remote
- Yourself, simply making facial expressions across from your baby!
All in all, tummy time is super important. It can also be fun with some patience and dedication! If your little one doesn’t like it yet, don’t give up. Using a trick from the list above may be just the change you and your baby need.