|Dr. Philippe Jean Collin.—Photo courtesy of Family Medical Practice Hanoi
For infants from birth till five months
By Dr. Philippe Collin*
Tummy time is essential from day one to help your baby grow strong – even if your baby fusses and cries when you put him on his belly. Experts find that babies who don’t spend time face-down often have some delays in the development of motor skills.
What is Tummy Time?
Tummy Time is the time during the day your baby spends on their tummy while they are awake.
Since the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends Back to Sleep, spending time on their tummy is crucial for baby’s development.
Why does my baby need Tummy Time?
Babies spend a lot of time on their backs. No matter how fascinating baby gyms and mobiles are, spending time on their tummies is important too. It builds muscles and helps with their development.
Tummy Time helps your baby develop the neck, back, and shoulder muscles needed to meet infant developmental milestones. The experience of being on their tummy helps babies learn to push up, roll over, sit up, crawl, and pull to a stand. It may also help prevent early motor delays and conditions such as flat head syndrome (positional plagiocephaly) and twisted neck (positional torticollis).
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing babies on their backs to sleep and on their tummies to play.
When should my baby start Tummy Time?
Tummy Time can begin as soon as your baby comes home from the hospital.
How much Tummy Time does my baby need?
Your baby should work up to an hour of Tummy Time per day by 3 months. Aim for a few minutes at a time, several times a day.
How to Do Tummy Time with my Baby?
1. Tummy to Tummy or Tummy to Chest: 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.
2. Tummy Down Carry or Football Hold: Position one hand under the tummy and between the legs and carry baby tummy down. Nestle baby close to your body to help baby get accustomed to the position.
3. Lap Soothe: Place baby face-down across your lap to burp or soothe them. A hand on baby’s bottom will help steady and calm them
4. 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.
5. Tummy Minute: Place your baby on its tummy for one or two minutes after every diaper change. 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.
When should we do tummy time?
Make sure your baby isn’t hungry or tired when you set him tummy-down. On the other hand, don’t place him on a full belly. Wait about an hour after feeding to avoid spit-ups or infant acid reflux.
When your baby starts to cry — even if it’s only been a minute — try to coax her/him a bit longer by talking or playing with the her/him. When your baby has had enough, pick him up and try again later.
Your baby’s tolerance for tummy time is likely to increase gradually with experience and a bit of coaxing. And many babies are more content on their tummy once they can roll over and it becomes a matter of choice.
Some parents find it helpful to roll their babies over on their tummy for a little while after every diaper change. It’s easy to remember to do it, and your baby may come to expect it.
What to do if my baby hates Tummy Time?
If your baby seems miserable on his belly, it’s no wonder. Not only is it unfamiliar, it’s physically uncomfortable. It’s hard work for your baby to keep his head up when she or he’s on his tummy, and he/she can’t see much of anything down there and may even feel abandoned.
If your baby hates Tummy Time, these tips may help make it more enjoyable:
• For newborns, Tummy Time activities should center on carrying and calming baby
• Place baby on an incline using a rolled up towel or receiving blanket under baby’s chest
• Offer Tummy Time at baby’s most content time of day
• Get down on the floor at baby’s eye level.
Don’t get discouraged. Every bit of Tummy Time makes a difference.
If you have done plenty of Tummy Time with baby, but are concerned they are not meeting their milestones, bring your concerns to the baby’s pediatrician or healthcare provider.— Family Medical Practice Hanoi.
* Dr. Philippe Jean Collin is a French Pediatrician with Family Medical Practice Hanoi. He is a member of the French society of pediatrics, American society of nephrologists, and the Pediatric Academy Societies.
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