Tummy time is a relatively new concept. In past generations, babies were put to sleep on their tummies. This changed with the Back to Sleep Campaign from the American Academy of Pediatrics in the early 1990s. Since then, parents have been told to put babies on their backs to go to sleep. Research shows this is the safest way to sleep to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
It was later found that lying on their backs all the time caused some babies to experience a flattening of the back of the head. In addition, babies were spending too much time in equipment designed to contain them such as swings, bouncy chairs and infant seats. The [tag-tec]babies[/tag-tec] in studies done by the AAP also had weaker upper body muscles and hit milestones such as rolling over, crawling and walking later. To counteract this trend, the term “tummy time” has been used.
The purpose of tummy time campaigns is to remind parents that babies need to spend some play time on their tummies to develop muscle control. A soft play gym designed for infants is a great place for tummy time. The baby will enjoy stretching out on his back and playing with the toys. Eventually he will roll from his tummy to back or the other way around.
Some babies may resist being placed on their tummies. You can start out by having tummy time on your stomach. Lie on the sofa and place the baby on you with her tummy facing down. She may try to push up to see you. As the baby grows and enjoys being on her stomach, you can move on to a blanket on the floor or the [tag-ice]baby gym[/tag-ice]. Sit in front of the baby or lie on the floor and interact with the baby as she plays on her stomach.
A Boppy pillow may help your baby enjoy tummy time. The pillow gives the [tag-self]baby[/tag-self] support and allows him to see what is happening around him. Place a few toys around the baby to get his attention and motivate him to push up with his arms to look at them. Eventually he will try to scoot over to reach the toy. This helps the baby learn to roll over and then to crawl. The Boppy can also be used to support the baby when he is learning to sit.
The time your baby spends in this position will vary. In the beginning, the baby may only tolerate it for a minute or two. Gradually, the baby will stay for a bit longer as she gets used to spending time on her stomach. Even five minutes at a time can make a difference. If the baby really hates being on her stomach, try a few shorter sessions during the day. She may tolerate it for a minute in the morning and a minute or two in the evening. This will gradually increase as the baby grows. As she learns to move and gains control of her body, she will enjoy playing on the floor.
In the meantime, you can avoid flat head and weaker muscles by limiting the amount of time the baby spends sitting in container type baby equipment. Use the swing and the bouncy seat for short periods of time. Carry the baby in a sling or soft infant carrier while you get things done around the house or are out running errands. Time spent in a sling can help develop many of the same muscles as are strengthened during tummy time. When babies are carried and held, they don’t have the problem with flattening of the head as frequently. Enjoy this special time with your baby. Soon he will be standing, walking and running off to play.
Patricia Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four. Patricia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. She has written extensively on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and breastfeeding. In addition, she has written about home décor and travel.
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