When you became a parent, you probably were taught again and again the importance of placing your baby on her back to sleep, and rightly so—since the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending back sleeping, incidences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome have dropped by more than 50 percent.
But did you also know there’s an equally important position for when your baby is awake? Playing with your baby while she’s on her tummy is a key part of helping her meet motor milestones such as:
- Gaining head and neck control
- Rolling over
- Sitting up
- Pulling to stand
Babies who spend all day on their backs have less of a chance to develop important head, neck and abdomen muscles, which can lead to delayed head-lifting, sitting up and crawling.
It’s never too early to start practicing tummy time. As soon as you get home from the hospital, you can practice tummy time by lying down and placing your baby on your chest. You can also lay your baby across your lap or carry your baby around the house tummy down.
Don’t be discouraged if your baby becomes upset the first few times you try tummy time. Just like us, it can be difficult for them to adjust to a new workout routine. Start small with just a few minutes of tummy time every day. Eventually try to work up to an hour a day in small increments. Try singing and using toys to keep your baby engaged and happy while on their tummy.
Top Tummy Time Moves
There are a variety of ways for your baby to get her dose of tummy time. Practice the moves below and find out what works best for you and your baby.
- Tummy to Tummy:
Lie down on the floor or a bed, flat or propped up on pillows. Place baby on your chest or tummy, so that you’re face-to-face. Always hold firmly for safety.
- Eye-Level Smile:
Get down level with your baby to encourage eye contact. Roll up and place a blanket under the chest and upper arms for added support.
- Lap Soothe:
Place your baby face-down across your lap to burp or soothe him. A hand on your baby’s bottom will help steady and calm him.
- Tummy-Down Carry:
Slide one hand under the tummy and between the legs when carrying baby tummy down. Nestle baby close to your body.
- Tummy Minute:
Place your baby on her tummy for one or two minutes every time you change her. Start a few minutes at a time and try to work up to an hour a day in shorter intervals by the end of three months.
For additional information on tummy time or infant development, visit Pathways.org