New parenthood comes with many questions: How did this seven-pound cutie fit in my belly? Is my baby bowlegged? Does my baby have kneecaps? Why is my baby arching her back? The questions quite literally never end. And not just questions; you’ll hear many confusing terms everyone expects you to understand. Like, tummy time. After having a baby, you’ll hear a lot about tummy time. A lot. But, what is tummy time, exactly? How do you help baby do it, and why is it so important? And when do you start? Don’t stress. This primer will become your go-to source and is replete with tummy time tips and advice.
What is tummy time?
First things first, what is it? Tummy time is a good exercise for your baby as it helps with their motor development and strengthens their muscles. That said, tummy time can be a confusing time for a baby. Since tummy time helps build and strengthen the baby’s neck and shoulder muscles, they may not feel confident being in a stomach-down position at first. That’s why parents must know the correct way to explore this developmental phase.
When to Start Tummy Time
Many pediatricians suggest starting tummy time soon after your baby comes home from the hospital, around the two-week mark. Tummy time will eventually help your baby start crawling, so it’s good to do early on. Again, your baby may hate the positioning. Despite their cries, don’t worry — it’s a relatively normal response. Other babies will enjoy the change, so it’s hard to tell how your newborn may react. It is essential to be there with your child during tummy time; having you close will reassure that everything is okay.
Try to do tummy time when your baby is well-rested but not immediately after feeding; right after a diaper change will also work.
How long should newborn tummy time be?
Like all new exercises, you can work your way up to longer periods when your newborn is on their tummy. You can also break up the time that your baby is on the floor. In general, you should try and get at least 15 minutes of tummy time per day. You can do five minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening in-between your baby’s naps to help break it up and make it less challenging for your newborn.
How to do Tummy Time
You don’t need a ton of accessories, but it’s best to be prepared. Some parents opt to do tummy time in a play gym made for babies. There are plenty of good baby playmats for newborns that will give you both a safe and comfortable space. These indoor solutions are perfect as most come with plenty of colorful distractions that’ll help keep your baby entertained. If you don’t have one yet, even a clean towel will work. You’ll want to make sure your floor is clear of any dirt or debris.
Some parents also feel like pillows may help give their baby some extra support. If your baby is having a tough time, try using a nursing pillow, baby lounger, or another supportive method. Just make sure you keep close attention on your baby during this time. Eventually, you can take the pillow away as your little one gets stronger and more confident.
Putting some toys or friendly items around your baby may also be helpful, especially for slightly older infants. To start, place your baby on their belly and make sure they’re constantly supervised. If your baby starts to cry, it may feel alarming. Make sure to be soothing and supportive, and congratulate your baby with soft praise during and after each session. Every baby is different, but it’ll get easier for both of you with a bit of practice and modification.
Benefits of Tummy Time
Besides the stronger core and neck muscles, tummy time strengthens a baby’s head support. In turn, this can also help prevent babies from getting flat spots on their heads. Since babies don’t move too much after birth, sometimes baby’s flat spots may occur if they’re in one position for too long. One of the main goals for tummy time is for a baby to hold and lift their head. With tummy time, they’re working the muscles to make this happen sooner than later. This developmental exercise might also become less scary and intimidating for your baby when it does happen. Being able to lift their head fully usually happens in babies who are four months old.
That said, don’t worry if your little one’s head is still shaky, Mama. All babies and kids are different and reach developmental milestones at their own pace. If you feel like your baby is behind motor skills, speak with your pediatrician about other steps to take. They’re your best resource when it comes to diagnosing any issues or setbacks.