Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tummy Time

Getting your baby crawling should be on the top of your agenda since it's vital for brain organization. (See Crawling: More Important than Sitting or Standing) And it's also so important for our kids to be active and get used to moving around -- excising actually stimulates brain growth! (Read more.) Being active may also help with constipation issues. (See Constipation: Causes and Cures.)
It also prevents your baby from getting a flat head.

Encouraging lots of time on his tummy is the best way to achieve all these goals. In fact, according to many child development specialists, babies not spending time on their tummies often are more delayed in their motor skill development than babies who spend a lot of time on their stomach. Tummy time is a great way for helping your baby to learn to push up, roll, crawl and eventually pull to a standing position.

Some babies are unhappy on their tummy, though. Jett wasn't a fan, at first. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to make your baby comfortable and to eventually love it!

Baby on your chest technique

1) Lie down on your back on the floor, in a recliner, bed or even in the bath.

2) Put your baby on his tummy on your chest so that you will be lying tummy-to-tummy. Jett slept like this on me for many months. (It also allowed me to better monitor his breathing and over all well being.)

3) Talk to him. Get his attention and try to get a positive response. You can point to and identify his body parts (eyes, nose, arms, hands, etc.). Make it a fun experience. And try to encourage and maintain interest by changing the tone of your voice when talking to him.

If you're feeling playful and once your baby has sufficient head control, you can raise and lift him. He'll probably love the new view. This is great for keeping things fun. Or you can play airplane by putting your baby's tummy against your legs, his head at your knees. Then bend your legs while holding on to him firmly. Making things fun for your baby is probably the most important to get any baby exercise to work.

If he starts to cry — even if it's only been a minute — try to coax him a bit longer by talking with him or playing with him. When he's had enough, but isn't hysterical or anything, pick him up and try again later. His 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.

Do this technique several times a day, increasing the amount of time at each session. Try it daily for two weeks or longer before simply deciding that it doesn't work.

Although this exercise does not give immediately results, it's a powerful way to encourage and get him comfortable on his tummy. Hang in there, it's really good for him. He may protest a little, but he'll eventually love it!

Time it right

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, which might be uncomfortable.

You can roll him over on his 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. He may also enjoy the view, if he's up on a changing table or near a window. Just be sure to hold on to him so he doesn't roll off.

Keep your baby company

You can distract him from the unfamiliar feeling of being face-down until he gets used to it by joining him on the floor. Encourage him, talk with him, shake his rattle, make funny faces, play peekaboo. He might even enjoy watching you do your leg lifts or crunches.

You might also put him on the bed, near the edge, and sit on the floor with your face next to his. He might appreciate the softer surface, and you can easily interact with him in this position. With Jett, I laid him face down on the sofa while I sat down on the floor so that my face was level with his. It took him a while to enjoy tummy time, but the effort spent was worth it. And, we had to start this all over again after heart surgery!

Provide entertainment

Prop a board book open in front of your baby, or place a favorite toy within his reach. Invest in a tummy-time toy or gym, designed especially for babies to play with while on their belly. Some have lights, mirrors, moving pictures, music and/or squeaky toys attached. Or place him on a colorful quilt or an activity mat designed just for babies. Some mats have prop-up toys or mirrors, and others are filled with water, for added fun. Take your baby's socks off so he can get good traction on the mat. Mats and gyms with contrasting colors such as black and white or dark colors with yellow are especially stimulating. (Babies can't see pastel colors!)

This activity board from 3 of 31 blog is a great idea for tummy time.

Have your baby's sibling(s) play nearby when he's on his tummy. (You may want to use a play yard so he won't get stepped on. But, full access to a lot of wiggle room is best.) Watching a brother or sister — or even a family pet — may just keep him happily distracted for a bit.

Prop your baby up

Perhaps giving their baby a new perspective — by propping him on a rolled towel or nursing pillow, for example — will help. If your baby has some neck strength and head control (by age 3 or 4 months, in the typical population) but can't get up on his forearms, simply place the towel or pillow under his chest and armpits, with his arms in front of it. (If he tends to roll forward, keep your hand on his bottom.) When he can get up on his forearms independently, remove the pillow and let him work on his motor skills without it.

Some babies enjoy rolling on a big exercise ball. Hold him on it tummy-down while you gently rock the ball back and forth. Jett loved this!

Tune in to your baby

Try to figure out if there's anything in particular about tummy time that your baby finds distressing. Maybe his blanket is uncomfortably bunched up or the shag carpet is scary. Maybe it's too cold on the floor or too slippery. Maybe he just needs something to chew or suck on to to enjoy it. Just listen and watch for your baby's cues.


See if your baby likes to be massaged while he's on his tummy. If he does, it could help him feel comfortable in that position. See Massage Your Baby for tips on how.

Tip: Make sure your child's sitter or daycare provider understands the importance of tummy time and actively encourages it.

Go here for more tips during tummy time.

Rolling Over

Getting Your Baby to Roll is a great OT post on helping your baby to roll over.


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