Babies these days get a limited amount of opportunities to explore their bodies and their environment. Parents, rightfully, follow the APA guidelines for sleep positioning and place their little ones on their backs. Children also spend many of their waking hours strapped in devices such as car seats, strollers, or bouncy chairs. This can unfortunately delay development and increase muscular imbalances in growing bodies.
Tummy Time has been shown to promote development, and is recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics. It involves your baby spending time on his tummy while supervised and engaged by you or other caregivers. It has been shown to promote development in several areas.
Some Benefits of Tummy Time
Tummy Time promotes muscular and sensory development, but also benefits mental and social growth as well:
- Promotes gross and fine motor skills.
- Provides opportunities to build strength against gravity.
- Provides weight bearing opportunities for forearms, hands, elbows.
- Increases body awareness.
- Lengthens important muscle groups in the hips, abdominals, trunk and neck.
- Promotes arch development in hands (necessary for fine motor skills).
- Increases sensory input to joints and organs (proprioception), and vestibular (our body’s positioning sensory system).
- Promotes sensory and neurological development.
- Promotes visual motor coordination.
- Increases opportunities to bond and connect with caregivers.
- Increases opportunities for exploration and autonomy.
How to Introduce Tummy Time
Research shows that to help your child reach developmental milestones he should participate in 90 minutes of tummy time per day by the age of 4 months. If you have not started yet, or are nowhere close to that goal, don’t fret. Just start where you are at and slowly increase the duration. At first, you might want to break down this activity into small increments spread throughout the day.
- Start early: while lying on the floor or bed, position your newborn infant on your tummy, promoting eye contact and closeness for a few minutes at a time everyday. Make sure you support his head. It’s okay if your baby fusses a little.
- Always stay with your baby during tummy time.
- Start in small increments of time, such as 30 seconds. Increase it little by little.
- Try to distract your baby with interesting visuals. This will help increase his tolerance for this activity.
- Make it part of your daily routine (e.g. do tummy time after each diaper change).
- Read books while your baby is on his tummy.
- Place your baby in front of mirror while in prone (tummy) position.
- Get your older kids to do tummy time with your baby. It’s good for them too!
- Parents and siblings are a baby’s biggest motivator, so get on the floor with him. Encourage eye contact & communication, sing songs, and be playful.
Occupational therapists and early intervention therapists are very creative when it comes to tummy time. Reach out to your CDI team for more ideas and on how to incorporate tummy time into your baby’s daily routine.