Last updated January 7th, 2021
With so many things to consider having a newborn it could get a little overwhelming, specially for a first time mom like myself. The list of questions goes on and on, one of which is one of the most important: Tummy Time – When to start?
As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) if your baby is born at full term with no health issues you can start doing tummy time as soon as you bring them home from the hospital, the earlier you introduce it to your baby the better.
You can start for as quick as 1-2 minutes, once to twice a day and slowly increase time as your baby shows progress. Make it a daily routine so that your baby will start expecting it. You need to focus on how your baby reacts and improve during tummy time to better plan what will and will not work for you and your baby.
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What is Tummy Time?
Tummy Time is your baby’s first ever “workout” where they spend few minutes in a day awake and alert on their stomach. It is an important exercise for your baby to develop their muscles used to lift their heads and, eventually, to sit up, crawl and walk.
I don’t know about you but for us it’s never always as easy, I remember our first attempt doing tummy time with my son who is obviously not a fan of the activity at first but got the hang of it with just few other helpful tricks.
How do you do tummy time with a newborn?
As delicate as they are inside a mother’s womb, a newborn baby needs extra care after they are born. Everything is new and just like adults, they will need time to adjust. That is why it’s easy to understand that some babies are not so thrilled about tummy time.
Ever notice how as soon as they are born, the doctor will put the baby on the mother’s chest to let him feel and hear her heart beat, that’s tummy time right there!
It is recommended for them to have skin to skin contact to calm them down. Put your baby on your chest and let him stay in that position for a minute several times within the day, that should establish a routine for them to get used to and eventually enjoy longer.
Tummy Time Tricks
Most babies hate tummy time at first, “While on his belly, a baby has to work extra hard against gravity to keep his head up—it’s strenuous,” explains Henry Shapiro, M.D., medical director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at All Children’s Hospital, in St. Petersburg, Florida.
- Something new and something different are challenging most of the time, here are some helpful tricks that you can try to make it more fun for your baby!
- Place your baby on your own tummy, talk to him and make him feel like it is story time by engaging your baby in a conversation or sing him a song.
- Carry your baby in your arms tummy down, some also call this trick as the football hold.
- Put baby on your lap, their tummy facing down while gently stroking their backs to help them relax.
- Get down on the floor with your baby, make him feel that you are in this together, rub their backs or play with their tiny little feet to soothe them.
- Be visible to your baby, remember that your presence calm them down. Place him on your bed and establish an eye to eye position for your baby to see you.
- Motivate him to play, place his favorite toys around or in front of him to turn tummy time into play time.
- Try different locations, make it his little adventure by switching up what his eyes see when on his belly, tummy time outdoor is great for his developing vision.
- It is best to do tummy time after a nappy change when they are alert and awake.
Benefits of Tummy Time
Besides the main purpose of tummy time which is to prepare you baby’s motor skills there are far more advantage linked to this activity. Here are some of the most common and are highly important benefits:
- Enables your baby to exercise his muscles in his arms, shoulders, upper back and neck which will lead him to be able to lift his head.
- Improves sensory development by feeling different textures used during tummy time such as blanket, playmat foam, grass if outdoors.
- Improves body awareness as they move and shift their weight.
- Helps develop eye and hand coordination by looking at his hands, your baby is being aware that they can move and do things.
- Helps to ease baby with gas pain.
- Can help your baby avoid developing a flat spot on the back of his head for staying on his back for too long. In worst cases, head flattening, or plagiocephaly, can distort facial features.
- Based on research published in Pediatrics in May 2020, tummy time is associated with improved cardiovascular health and body mass index (BMI).
- Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play! – If your baby falls asleep on his belly during tummy time make sure to move him on his back to prevent the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
- Avoid doing tummy time when your baby is full or right after his feeding.
- Never leave your baby without supervision, make sure that you keep a watchful eye on your baby while on his belly specially for the first few weeks for he could get into a position that is dangerous and suffocate.
- When in doubt about your baby’s responses and development, or if you are not sure on what to do, it’s always best to talk to your baby’s pediatrician to get professional advise.
When can the baby lift their head up?
If you try to look this question up on the internet, there will be lots of different answers and it can get you more confused than educated. Some baby could start lifting their head up as early as 2 months while other babies might gain their head and neck control later on.
That is because, there are no certain “age” when your own baby can lift his head but there are stages of development that you can follow as you and your baby get along with tummy time. Below are general developments based on what most babies can do at certain week or month when doing tummy time.
- 2 weeks – baby is still getting used to tummy time as they are on their back majority of the time, their weight is usually in their head and chest at this stage.
- 1 month – baby should now be able to turn his head from one side to the other, he could also start to try and lift his head by this age.
- 2 months – baby is now more familiar with tummy time so they should now be on their belly for 1 full minute without crying. He could start tilting his head by this age.
- 3 months – baby has gained enough muscle strength and should now be able put some weight on their arms with elbows behind shoulders at a 45 degree angle. He also gained head control by this age that should now allow him to lift his head a few seconds without tilting from either side. Baby could be on tummy time for a much longer time now, averaging for 1 hour each day. Their vision have improved by this time so he will now be able to follow a toy you pit in front of him by his eyes.
- 4 months – baby is now able to life their head at 90 degrees and keeping it centered, also increasing neck control that would allow him to look at a toy and follow it using his eyes as you move it. He should now be able to push up on forearms and lift chest off the floor.
- 5 months – baby is now able to push up with straight elbows using their hands as support for balance. He should now be able to reach out his hand to you or try and grab a toy in front of him.
- 6 months and above – baby should now be able to go on tummy time on his own will and enjoy it as much as laying on his back. Rolling over from their belly to their back and vice versa should also start by this stage. Babies at this age generally prefer being on their belly more compared to laying on their backs as the position allows them to play, and move more easily.
It’s easy to get anxious if your baby is not responding the way you want them to, but that’s no reason to give up! Tummy time is very important for your baby’s development and to top it all of it’s a great bonding experience for you and your baby too!
Start slow and small, let your baby take his time. Let him get used to tummy time by doing it multiple times daily, and don’t forget to have fun in the process.
Remember that different babies have different development timeline. If your concerns are increasing you can always consult your baby’s pediatrician to get professional advice.