Welcoming a baby into your family can be overwhelming, especially for first time parents. Not only are you trying to adjust to the new dynamics as a family of three and getting to know your baby and their needs, but you are trying to navigate your new role as parent. New parents may be full of questions – from when and how to bathe their baby, whether or not the pacifier is right for your family, to why it’s recommended to do tummy time with your baby.
Families are likely familiar with the importance of babies sleeping on their backs. The American Academy of Pediatrics stresses the importance of babies sleeping on their backs because it reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, however, it is also important to understand the reasons why your child should be taking part in “tummy time” when they are awake and alert.
Benefits of tummy time include:
- Helps relieve the chances of developing a flat spot on the back of their heads
- Strengthens their upper body muscles
- Allows babies to practice lifting their heads
- Helps baby master basic skills such as rolling over, sitting up without support and crawling
So, when can you start tummy time?
Parents may be surprised to learn that a baby who did not have any complications during birth and does not have any health issues can begin working on tummy time once they are brought home. Your baby will not be able to hold their head up for very long, but they will begin to naturally lift their head so that they can see what is around them. One of the most important things to remember about tummy time is that children should be awake and alert and always be supervised.
How long should your baby do tummy time for?
At first, most babies will not enjoy laying on their stomachs, but as they become stronger, they will become more comfortable. As they are adjusting, play with your baby on their stomach a couple times a day for about five minutes at a time unless they become fussy. If your child really seems to hate laying in this position, continue practicing tummy time with them, but only for a couple of minutes at a time and gradually increase the time they spend on their stomachs. Some parents have found that laying on their backs and placing babies on their stomach on top of their chests and talking to them has helped their children become more comfortable in this position. Research also suggests increasing your odds of having a successful tummy time session, you should do so after a nap or diaper change and avoid doing so right after a feeding.
How can you make tummy time more enjoyable for your baby?
One of the reasons your little one doesn’t like tummy time is because they are bored with it. Get involved and make it fun and interesting for them. There are numerous ways you can help engage your baby during tummy time and help their development. Here are some ways to make tummy time more enjoyable:
- Getting right on the ground with them and being eye-to-eye with them.
- While you’re on the ground with them, sing or talk to them. They will enjoy the sound of your voice and it will encourage them to lift their heads to see you.
- Hold their favorite toy in front of them. Toys with music and lights are great to help baby move their heads up and down and side to side.
- Create an activity area where they are taking part in tummy time. Some families like to use mirrors so their baby can look at themselves or activity mats that have sounds, lights and even pop-up toys.
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