(Why) Tummy Time

Most babies come into the world absolutely perfect (especially yours).  They also come into the world curled up in fetal position with very little ability to move.  Real intentional movement comes along several months down the road.  The journey of learning to move begins at birth.  There is a developmental progression that occurs automatically.  But just as language needs some prodding, motor skills can use a little nudge.

The nudge needs to be fun and it needs to be safe.  Supporting your infant’s head until solid head/neck control is firmly established is key.  Enticing him with interesting games and MANY breaks along with hugs and cheers makes these activities interesting and entertaining. The fun experienced by your baby helps cement a loving relationship.

A really important thing babies need to develop is strength in their backs. When core muscles get strong, your baby is able to balance, reach and move around with confidence. When the neck muscles get stronger, which occurs when the baby lifts the head, it activates muscles around the eyes. This actually helps build visual focus as well!

Parents are told to place the infant on the back for sleeping, understandably to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  This makes it very important that during waking hours, your baby is placed on the tummy intermittently throughout the day.  As a very young infant, tolerance for this position will be quite small.  As the neck gets stronger, your baby will lift her head and look around.  The back and arm muscles get stronger and she will begin to lift her chest off the floor and prop up on her forearms.  Eventually she lifts her trunk up with all the body weight in her hands.  This strengthens the hand muscles for later fine motor activities too!

Here are some games you can play with your baby:

During waking hours place your infant for brief periods on the stomach.  Interact in front so his head lifts slightly to check out what’s going on.  Be sure to be at eye level when doing this. Sing silly songs and make funny faces. You’ll get his attention! Continue this on a regular basis. 

Place your baby on her tummy for a few seconds to minutes during the day.  Lie on floor in front of your baby and smile, talk, sing, shake a toy…basically anything that will engage her in a pleasurable way.

Once your baby can hold his head up comfortably for a longer period of time, hold out a toy so he has to reach for it.  Make sure the toy is close enough so your baby will have success in making contact with the toy.  

Add a dynamic feature when playing this game. Roll a truck or ball in front of your baby to entice her to look and reach for it.

When carrying your baby, occasionally prop his tummy on the full length of your arm with good trunk and head support provided.  I call this “flying” (refer to picture).  As the infant gains more control of the head, increased movement can make the experience exciting and fun.

Once your baby is a “Superstar” with tummy work, you can add a fun challenge by placing her tummy on your thighs, a small ball or inflatable roll (refer to picture). Gently roll her back and forth and then have her “land” on the floor with her arms and hands extended to “walk” back to a resting position on the floor.

When your baby can lift his head and trunk off the floor for long periods, be sure to include “Tummy Time” and floor play in the schedule several times a day.  As the neck and back get stronger, your baby will enjoy this position as it readies that little body for fun activities such as scooting, rolling and crawling!

Make sure to keep “Tummy Time” in the routine, even when your baby turns into a toddling wonder. It’s still the best way to keep strengthening those growing core muscles!