Posted on April 8, 2011
Tummy time: Tips to help you position, carry, hold and play with your baby
Your baby needs supervised time on her tummy throughout the day while she’s awake. Mary Free Bed’s pediatric specialists offer these ideas and activities to ensure your baby gets the exercise she needs.
How you play and interact with your baby helps her increase strength and decrease the risk of tight muscles.
Increasing tummy time can:
- Improve neck and shoulder strength
- Decrease the potential for tightness in the neck, which can lead to abnormal head shape
- Build a balance of strong muscles for skills such as rolling, crawling, and sitting
What Is Proper Alignment?
Midline alignment is when your baby’s body is straight, whether she’s on her back, on her stomach, or sitting up.
For proper alignment, you want your baby to be able to stay in midline, move out of midline, then return to midline. Moving in and out of midline is important for proper eye-hand-head coordination and balance during your baby’s first year.
The Importance of Tummy Time Activities
Your baby spends a lot of time sleeping on his back. When he’s awake, lying on his tummy is a healthy position for him. More and more carriers – including car seat and stroller combos, bouncers, and swings – are available that make it hard to remember to put your baby on his stomach.
Tummy time strengthens the muscles in your baby’s neck, arms, and trunk. He has to lift his head in this position, which makes his back stronger. When your baby looks around, he’s strengthening his neck. Your baby is also building strength when he pushes through his arms, which helps him learn to reach and crawl as he gets older.
When you first put your baby on his stomach, he may not like it. Start out by having your baby on his tummy for only a few seconds. As he gets stronger, he’ll want to stay on his stomach longer.
Tummy time is:
- Always supervised
- A bonding time with your baby
- A fun time to play and interact with your baby
Activities of Daily Living
Your baby has important activities to do during the day, such as eating, sleeping, and playing. You can help your baby build strong muscles by how you position her during these tasks.
Playtime is one of the best times to challenge your baby and help him grow stronger. Use a variety of positions – and play with a purpose!
It’s important for your baby to spend time on the floor every day playing. Minimize his time in his bouncy seat, car seat, swing, walker, or exersaucer. If your baby is sitting in a seat, carrier, or stroller, exploration of movement is limited.
Your baby learns to move by playing on the floor on his tummy, back, and sides. At first, he may tire easily and cry. Slowly increase his floor time with frequent bursts of floor activities. It’s particularly beneficial for him to be on his tummy when he’s awake and you’re supervising him.
Also remember that making eye contact with your baby is motivational for him. If you lay on your stomach in front of your baby, he’ll be encouraged to lift his head to see you.
Playtime Ideas and Tummy Positioning
Tummy – Over a Boppy Pillow™: Place your baby over a Boppy Pillow, with the pillow under his upper chest. His arms may be straight or bent.
Tummy Time Alternatives
Sometimes your baby will have a hard time staying on her tummy. Tummy time alternatives are activities to make being on her tummy a little easier until your baby is strong enough to lay on the floor.