Let me preface this post by saying you should always place your darling baby on their back during periods of sleep and never leave your baby unattended while laying on their stomach.
The American Academy of Pediatrics coined the saying, “Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play” to remind mothers of the importance of placing infants on their back for sleeping and tummy for play time. During every Well Child check up, your pediatrician will stress the importance of back sleeping as the primary mechanism to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but routine tummy time has also shown to reduce SIDS.
Pediatricians suggest that you can begin to place your baby on his/her stomach, for short periods, as soon as their umbilical cord has fallen off and tummy time is comfortable. You can lay on your back with your baby on your chest; you can lay your baby across your lap; or you can lay your baby on a receiving blanket on the floor. Always place familiar toys, or your face, within a foot of your baby’s face to allow your baby to feel secure in this new position and encourage exploration. When you start this early, you may be surprised to see that your newborn can actually turn their head from side to side without assistance.
There is no set guideline for the number of times per day or length of each tummy session, so let your baby be your guide. Don’t worry if your baby screams as soon you place them on their stomach, pick them up and try again in a few hours. Your baby will gradually become used to this new adventure and enjoy the time on their stomach.
There are many documented benefits that result from tummy time. Each time you place your baby on their stomach, think of it as a upper body workout. Tummy time allows your baby to “work out” the muscles in their arms, shoulders, neck, and chest. Development of these muscles ensures that your baby will be able to hold their head up, roll over, crawl, and sit up at the appropriate age with no delays in motor development. Tummy time also prevents a positional skull deformity (flat spot on the back of your baby’s head) from forming and gives your baby a much needed change of scenery.
My first son was born at 32 weeks and I was very scared of him having delays in his motor development. I wanted to do everything I could to help him develop on schedule. I was given a copy of the Happy Birthday Baby Book and followed its advice for implementing tummy time. From the time I brought him home, I was very strict in the amount of tummy time he received each day. I remember him resisting at first, but he grew to love time playing on his tummy and met all of his motor development milestones right on time. One major help was me purchasing a tummy time mat to lay him on during tummy time. It had rattles, mirrors, and brightly colored shapes for him to look at and manipulate with his hands.
You can find the Healthy Families of Arkansas Happy Birthday Baby Book online and read more about tummy time. Also, Healthy Families of Arkansas is partnering with me to provide one of my lucky readers this awesome tummy time mat:
This giveaway ends Wednesday, January 30 at midnight and the winner will be contacted on Thursday, January 31.