As you may have heard, one of the best ways for babies to explore their world and get a little exercise is through regular “tummy time.” Tummy time simply means placing baby in a safe spot on their stomachs for short periods of time in to strengthen muscles that are essential for mastering gross motor skills such as crawling, climbing and walking. Regular tummy time can also help prevent positional plagiocephaly, also know as “flat head syndrome” that can develop due to extended periods of time lying on their backs or reclined in bouncers, car seats and baby swings. Here are a few helpful tummy time tips to help you get started.
When it comes to tummy time, you’ll want to start early–healthy babies can begin at around a week old. Keep in mind, babies usually cry and struggle with the position at first, but don’t give up. The key is to keep sessions short–three to five minutes at first, and don’t hesitate to try even for a minute at a time if that’s what it takes for baby to get comfortable with it. You can even give baby a little boost by placing a breastfeeding pillow or rolled-up blanket under her chest to help keep her head elevated. Each session will get easier as baby gets stronger, and she’ll eventually enjoy exploring from that vantage point. Try to do at least two to three sessions per day.
Create a Clean, Comfortable Environment
Be sure the floor where your baby will be laying is vacuumed and completely free of any small items. Avoid cleaning the area with any harsh chemicals. Then spread out a blanket or play mat on the floor/rug.
Get on the Floor
Tummy time can be bonding time too. To make it a playful experience for baby, get down on the floor with your baby and engage face to face by talking and singing.
Place Sensory Items All Around
Place age-appropriate sensory toys to each side of your baby’s hands and slightly in front of them. This will ensure your baby is exploring the world from all angles and strengthening muscles equally. If you notice your baby tends to favor tilting his head in one direction over another, or has limited neck movement, he may have a condition called torticollis. It’s nothing to be alarmed about–some babies are born with it, but it can be resolved with simple exercises as prescribed by your baby’s pediatrician.
Use a Mirror
Babies love studying faces–even cute little ones that look like themselves! To add smiles to tummy time, hold or place a child-safe mirror in front of or to the side of your baby as she lays there.