Sometimes I feel like Tummy Time has become the 4 letter word of parenting (similar to how I feel about w-sitting). Not only that, I feel like my friends who are new mom’s think I am the tummy time police! As soon as I see them they let me know how often they have been getting their baby in tummy time, or they tell me that they are trying but it just isn’t working. I also know from our Developmental Playgroups that many parents either currently find tummy time to be challenging or their baby never liked it. So, I figured I would try to give some tips to help make it a little easier, and a little less stressful for all involved!
- Start Early – It is never too early to start having your baby get used to being on their tummy. Unless there are major extenuating circumstances, this can start day 1 when you are lying in bed. Have them lie on your chest while on their belly. They don’t have to do anything except lie there! You don’t even have to be lying flat, you can be reclined and holding them. What’s important is they are starting to get used to being on their belly. (It doesn’t have to be on your chest, you can have them lie on their belly on any safe surface but having them lie on your chest has the added benefit of feeling like cuddling!
- Start Small – You wouldn’t expect to be able to go out and run a marathon without building up your running, well the same applies for tummy time. Your baby is working on their strength and endurance in this position. They need to build up to it. Make it a win for you guys. Starting early (just like in number 1), have them do short spurts throughout the day. Diaper changes are a great time to build this in. After you change their diaper, roll them onto their belly for 30 seconds to a minute (making sure you are right there). The more time they get to do this, the easier it will be for them to begin lifting their head off the ground to see around. Their back and neck muscles will get stronger and stronger! Even if it’s short periods of time, every moment counts!
- Face Time – No, I’m not talking about the iphone video chat feature! This is a great time to get on the same level as your baby. It’s easy to get face to face when they are on your chest, but when you are building it into post diaper change time, get low on their level and engage with them. Talk, sing, give kisses, whatever you would do while you are playing with them while lying on their back, or while you are holding them. In fact, if you do this on the bed, you can even lie down too so that you are face to face. Think about it as an extra time for you to lie down during the day too!
- Defy Gravity – Babies have large heads compared to the rest of their body. That is a lot of weight for them to have to lift up, especially for muscles that are just getting started on their anti-gravity workout routine! If you have them lie on a slight incline (so that their head is a little higher than their feet) it will be a little easier for them. They won’t have to work quite as hard against gravity when they are at an incline as they would when they are flat on the ground. There are lots of weighs to create an incline. You can have them lie on your chest while you are reclined like we talked about in number 1. You can use a pillow or a boppy and have their top half resting on the pillow allowing their bottom half to be a little lower. You can also use your lap and put your feet up on a stool or other surface so that your knees are higher and have your baby lie on your lap (holding on to them) so that their head is up closer to your knees. You can use a therapy ball and roll it forward or backward while holding onto your baby so that you add in more gravity or less gravity. Here is a post with a video for some ideas for using a therapy ball.
- Stabilize – As your baby starts to lift their head up, you can help them out a little by making it so they have less parts of their body to worry about. If you put them on your lap, you can keep their knees bent underneath them. You can also hold them at their hands/arms. I like to do a lot of bouncing as you can see in this video. By having their knees bent and giving them support at their arms you are giving them some stability so they only have to focus on a smaller part of their body (head and neck). You may have noticed in the video with the therapy ball how I use my body to help stabilize at their hips also. Any type of stability just gives them one less thing to focus on!
Hopefully some of these ideas are helpful. Pathways.org also has a ton of great resources for tummy time!