Essential for your growing baby, tummy time helps your infant develop their muscles. Yet, helping your baby build their neck, arm, and abdominal muscles isn't always easy. Some babies protest belly time, screaming and crying as soon as you place them on your belly. How can you ensure that your infant's tummy time is pleasant?
We spoke with Pediatric Physical Therapist, June Gehman Deane. With a Masters Degree in Physical Therapy, Gehman Deane works with babies every day. She provided some tips, tricks, and fun activities you can try with your baby to help them enjoy tummy time.
What is Tummy Time?
Tummy time is simply time that your baby spends lying on their belly. This position helps your infant practice lifting their head. Plus, tummy time is important as it helps your baby learn to crawl.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, tummy time is important for your baby's development. Belly time helps babies build muscles. Plus, it gives them the chance to see the world from another perspective.
When to Start with Tummy Time?
You can start tummy time even before you get home from the hospital! Gehman Deane recommends that parents place their baby on their chest for face to face time. You can lie back on the bed or a recliner so your baby is horizontal. You can adjust how reclined you are to provide more or less challenge for your baby. The more upright you are, the easier it is for your baby to lift their head. Even young infants may start lifting their heads in this position.
Then, as soon as you can, practice a few minutes of tummy time several times a day. You can start with just a few minutes at a time and increase as your baby grows.
7 Pediatric Physical Therapist-Approved Tummy Time Activities
The benefits of tummy time are endless. Make this time with your baby fun and enjoyable with these pediatric physical therapist-approved activities!
To enjoy these activities, use a play mat or a soft carpet to stay comfortable on the floor.
1. Belly Time for Newborn with Caregiver
"Your baby's favorite thing to look at is your face," says Gehman Deane. That's why she recommends that parents put their newborn on their chest. You can continue placing your baby on your chest or belly either in a recliner or while you lie down on a mat. This way, your baby can look up at your face.
Entertain your baby by singing songs or making faces at them. You can simply chat with your baby about what you see. Over time, this will help your baby build language skills as well.
2. Side Lying
Not all babies love lying on their belly, especially at first. If this is true for you baby, Gehman Deane recommends trying side lying. Place your baby on their side with both arms in front of them. You can also bend their knees for stability.
This position also helps your baby develop their abdominal and neck muscles. Be sure to alternate which side your baby lies on.
Keep your baby entertained by lying down beside them. You can enjoy finger play, nursery rhymes, and toys while in this position. Your baby will also probably enjoy exploring their own hands!
3. Tummy Time with Toys
Add spark to belly time with toys like rattles, baby keys, stuffed animals, and more. Put a favorite toy in front of your baby so they can practice reaching for it and grabbing it.
Another great activity is to place toys all around your baby in a circle. That way, your baby can practice shifting their weight, turning, and moving on their belly. Simply encouraging your baby to reach for a toy off to one side is a great start. That way, your baby practices holding their weight on one arm.
Encourage your baby to interact with toys in different ways. If the toy makes noise, squeak or rattle it to get their attention.
4. Tummy Time with Books
Babies enjoy looking at books from a young age. For infants, choose books with black-and-white images that are easier for newborns to see.
Lie down with your child and show them the book. Turn the pages and talk about what you can see. Books with textures can also be a lot of fun, as your baby may try to touch the textures. This also helps boost their tummy time skills.
5. Belly Time Together
Try doing tummy time with your older baby, encouraging them to try different moves. For example, try doing yoga poses such as the sphynx or cobra, and see if your baby will mimic you.
Gehman Deane says you can even help position your baby. Carefully move your baby's elbows so they're bent under their shoulders. Gehman Deane recommends rolling up a thin blanket for support. Place it under your baby's chest and behind the elbows to help hold them in place.
6. Belly Time in Flight
For babies who resist tummy time, try this fun activity! Once your baby has pretty good head control, around 3 to 4 months, lie down on your mat.
Then, carefully lie your baby with her belly against your shins. Hold your baby under their shoulders or by their hands. Then, lift your legs, bending at the knees, and move them gently back and forth. Watch your baby enjoy the new view!
You can also hold your baby, tummy down, and carry them around the room. This position also helps babies build their neck muscles.
7. Mirror Time
Place your play mat close to the wall. Prop a child-safe mirror against the wall. Then, position your baby so they can see themselves in the mirror. Watch your baby play and enjoy their reflection.
Tummy Time Tips and Tricks
Gehman Deane says that there are no hard fast rules about tummy time. "Just try to get in as much as you can," she says. "Make it short, frequent, and fun. Your baby needs to know you're listening to them, so don't keep them in tummy time if they're upset."
That said, there are a few ways to help if your baby is uncomfortable. Try making it a routine, such as after changing a diaper or after bathtime.
Another tip is to start your baby on their back. Then, roll them to their side and belly. If your baby gets uncomfortable, help them roll onto their side again before trying the belly again.
Help Your Baby Grow with Tummy Time
Tummy time is an important activity throughout your baby's first year of life.
Does your baby like tummy time? Tell us about your experience.