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About Tummy Time

What is tummy time?

Tummy Time is when you place your infant on their stomach while supervised. Tummy time is an important activity endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Because babies sleep on their back for safety reasons, babies need tummy time while awake to work on more movement to strengthen head, neck, and upper body muscles.

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Why is it important for babies to play on their Tummy?

All babies including newborns benefit from tummy time on a safe and firm surface. Tummy time helps build the strength and coordination needed for future baby milestones like rolling over, crawling, reaching, and playing, and many sensorimotor skills, including vision.

Why do some babies not like Tummy time?

Babies need practice to learn to enjoy tummy time. Prior to the Back to Sleep campaign in the 1990’s, all babies slept and played on their stomachs for hours. Because little ones do sleep on their backs these days, they need other movement and position experiences. Remember, babies have been curled in flexion the entire pregnancy. Tummy time helps babies learn how to elongate the front of the body (work against gravity) and develop strength of the neck and shoulder muscles, before developing lower body strength. So, start slowly and increase over time!

What are other benefits of Tummy Time?

For some babies, Tummy positioning helps reduce reflux and gas. For some babies, Tummy Time will reduce pressure on the back of the head and prevent flat spots and promote optimal head shape. Tummy Time can optimize tongue and oral function. Movement such as hand to mouth, sensory input to the mouth, and sensory input to the lips and tongue happen easily in Tummy time. Visual motor skills, looking up, turning to the right, and left, and moving eyes side to side independent of head movements develop in the Tummy time position. Connecting with your baby during Tummy time using facial expressions, vocalizations back and forth, smiling, and encouraging touch help babies feel secure on their tummies.

How do I start Tummy Time?

You can start tummy time by placing a blanket in a clear area. After a diaper change or a nap, place your baby on their belly for a few minutes. Try doing this 3-4 times a day. As your baby tolerates longer periods of time on their tummy, you can arrange toys for them to look at, and eventually toys within their reach. If your baby has a strong preference to look to one side, Tummy time can help them learn to strengthen their neck muscles and smoothly move their head to the right and left equally.

What are alternatives to lying on a blanket?

When on their bellies, you can roll up a thin towel to make a bolster to help them with their upper body lifting. You can place your baby on their tummies on your chest while looking at you, or across your lap. There are Tummy Time blankets which different textures and colors which may help your baby enjoy the experience of different visual and touch sensations. Try and limit time in containers as this restricts movement and decrease use of swings exersaucers and baby gear. Encourage supervised tummy play to strengthen muscles, so that your baby learns to extend their upper body first against gravity, followed by lower body, to develop controlled and organized movement that require switching smoothly from flexion to extension movement patterns, with effort and intention.

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