Make time for Tummy Time
What is it and why is it good for baby?
Juice Staff Published: 6/21/2018
Babies spend a lot of time on their backs every night while sleeping, so it’s important to ensure they get adequate time on their tummy during the day. Tummy time is a critical component to your baby’s development as it helps strengthen muscles, improves coordination and even engages their brain.
It’s natural to lay your baby on his or her back. Your baby is comfortable and it’s the safest position in most scenarios, especially while sleeping. On their backs, babies are at lower risk for suffocation, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths.
But if your baby spends too much time on their back, they can develop flat spots on their head, known as plagiocephaly. Lying in the same position can also lead to some neck muscles being less developed than others. Both these problems require specific headgear or other methods of correction.
However, laying your baby on his or her belly for a few minutes at a time is the perfect way to prevent these issues from ever happening. That’s not all tummy time does for your baby, though.
“Tummy time strengthens so much of your baby’s upper body because it essentially teaches them how to support themselves,” said Paul Cornelissens, a pediatric physical therapist with Wolfson Children’s Rehabilitation Services. “It allows the baby’s arms, shoulders, and neck to develop in a symmetrical fashion instead of unevenly.”
While on his belly, your baby will prop himself up on his elbows, flexing muscles in his arms and shoulders that haven’t been used much before. His world will look new to him from this angle, so he’ll start to crane his neck and look around. This helps develop head control and strengthen neck muscles.
“Tummy time is great for building strength in the neck and arms,” said Cynthia Dennis, RN, coordinator of Safe Kids Northeast Florida, led by THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “It also encourages more exploration of their environment, which engages and helps develop their brain and eyes.”
What if my baby hates tummy time?
Many babies go along with tummy time, but some babies won’t be thrilled the first time they’re placed on their belly. Remember, though, that it’s a brand new position for them and that can be scary.
“Your baby might start crying when you first put them down for tummy time,” said Dennis. “Start with short, three to five minutes sessions to make it easier on you and your baby. Eventually you can start increasing it to 10 or 15 minutes.”
There are plenty of ways to distract your baby during tummy time to make it more enjoyable for your little one. Talking, reading a book, or singing to your baby during tummy time not only engages their brain, but it also strengthens the bond between baby and parent.
Just remember: Even if your baby loudly disapproves of tummy time, it’s a critical step on the path to healthy development. Once they’re scooting around the floor on their own, you’ll know all the crying was worth it.
7 reasons tummy time matters
- Strengthens back, leg, hip, arm and neck muscles
- Develops upper body strength and head control
- Prepares baby for sitting, scooting and crawling
- Can prevent flat-head syndrome
- Aids fine motor skills in hands
- Helps gas and constipation
- Good for brain and eye development