The truth about Tummy Time

October 13, 2022

Why is everyone talking about tummy time, and why is it so important?

Tummy time is something that either confuses or brings fear to the eyes of parents everywhere.

Safe sleep guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics tell us not to put babies on their stomach to sleep for the first year of their life because it puts them at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

However, this often makes parents worried with placing them on their stomach during waking hours, but this can cause major delays with development with rolling, sitting, standing, and even walking.

So what should I do?

Try placing your kiddo on their stomach for a few minutes for every hour they’re awake. Just remember, this is really, really tough for them! For babies their heads are about 25% of their body size (Adults are closer to 13%), and are really difficult to lift. It’s okay for them to get a little upset, I mean, I get upset with my workouts sometimes, but if they’re screaming, miserable and inconsolable, it’s time to take a break and try again in a little while. Or better yet, try some position changes!

Did you know if your child is on their stomach on your chest, IT COUNTS! This may be easier than being flat on the ground, and as they get older it is important for them to get better at being flat on the ground, but this is a great start! Try reclining your own body so that you get closer to the ground/couch/bed (think: Poor posture/slouching while you flip through the TV channels.) Just don’t fall asleep or let your kiddo fall asleep because although it may look adorable, it is not safe sleep habits and could make it tough for them to breathe.

For the little ones…

Try placing a small towel rolled up under their arms to help them with pushing up. Go directly in front of them and interact with them in this new position as they learn and discover your face. As they get older, a boppy can be useful in helping them get stronger in this new position.

Another option is for the adult to sit either on the ground with their legs out flat in front of them and the kiddo on their lap across with their head hanging slightly off of their legs. This is easier around 2-3 months old when they can push through their arms a bit. I love using a small mirror or a really interesting toy for the baby to be distracted by. Although I’m mostly a fan of the non-electric toys, this is a place to pull out your best musical objects to keep their interest.

So you say your kid is crying unless they’re moving?

Try walking around with them in your arms in a tummy down position. Kids generally love this “flying” position. It lets them look around the environment easily and keeps them generally distracted while they’re getting their workout in.

How much is too much?

When it comes to tummy time, I generally go with telling people “the more the better!” That being said I generally give the families I work with the goal of an hour of time spent on their tummy throughout the day. This can seem like a lot, but if you make it part of your routine it becomes so much easier. Every time you change their diaper, work on tummy time a little bit. There’s a guaranteed 5-10 times per day that you’ll be working on tummy time. Also, it’s never too early for tummy time, just know that you may need to start in very small doses when they’re first home from the hospital.

What happens if I don’t?

Tummy time is REALLY important! It puts kids in a new position and encourages them to “roll” which is one of the first big milestones that families see. Kids start moving on their tummy as their first means of mobility. Without getting comfortable on their tummy, it makes it so much more difficult to get moving! It makes them stronger throughout back and neck muscles and will help them with sitting and standing posture as they get older. Getting kids on their tummy early sets them up for success with every other developmental milestone!

Interesting and fun toys also help with tummy time! I’m attaching some easy cheap (all under $20) links for some of my favorite amazon tummy time toys:

Small mirror that folds flat, or is elevated to progress with your child.

Fun water play mat (make sure to always supervise on any uneven surfaces)

High contrast book (babies see in high contrast before they see in color.)

Mini boppy pillow for support in tummy time (sometimes smaller is better for tummy time)

Flat piano for floor play

As always, be sure to supervise children on any devices for safety!