By: Gabriela Gerhart
I have been teaching the importance of Tummy Time, not only in formal classes, but also in everyday conversation. “Tummy time” is playtime when infants are awake and placed on their tummies while someone is watching them. Tummy time helps allow babies to develop normally and build strong neck and shoulder muscles. It is so important to make tummy time a part of your baby’s daily activities.
Sometimes parents get nervous about placing their babies on their tummies, and this is understandable. With the growing awareness of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and prevention campaigns, some parents have taken this to the extreme. While it is important for babies to sleep on their back, it is equally important for them to get supervised tummy time during their waking hours. There is concern that if you begin tummy time too late, your baby may not like it since it is something he has not yet received encouragement to do. Additionally, he may be used to being put on his tummy during fussy times or when he is ready to eat. Introductions are just as important now as any time in the learning life of your child. If you introduce new experiences in a positive way, your baby will be that much more receptive.
It’s great to get on the floor and play with your baby, using a toy to entertain and interact. This is especially helpful in the first couple months when your baby’s neck muscles may not be strong enough for him to fully hold his head up.
It may be difficult at first, but don’t give up! Your baby being on his stomach is not only helpful for his muscle development (back, neck), it is excellent for stimulation; your baby will gain a whole new perspective on things around him. Tummy time also encourages better digestion, aiding in “massage” of the stomach and relief of excess gas. Remember though, do not engage in tummy time too soon after a meal; allow for initial digestion to take place.
Similar to the adjustments of becoming a new parent, it is all about balance! Just give yourself time to adjust to new experiences with your baby. Allow time to experiment and above all…give yourself time to play!
Top 10 Reasons to Do Tummy Time
l. “Tummy Time” gets babies off of their backs and provides a break for the posterior occipital area (back of the head). This lessens the chance that your baby will develop positional plagiocephaly (a flat or asymmetrical head), which might require helmet therapy.
2. “Tummy Time” lessens the chance that your baby will develop acquired torticollis, which involves neck muscle shortening when a baby’s head maintains primarily one position. Sometimes babies may need some physical therapy for a while to correct this condition.
3. “Tummy Time” promotes the development of strong head and neck muscles by allowing your baby the chance to hold his head up against gravity. This paves the way for your baby to push up, roll over, sit up, and crawl later. “Tummy Time” is related to faster achievement of these developmental milestones.
4. “Tummy Time” is great for stretching and giving the abdominal organs a sort of “massage” which then stimulates normal bowel functioning and can help to eliminate baby gas.
5. “Tummy Time” enhances posture and coordination.
6. “Tummy Time” helps to develop your baby’s visual system including tracking.
As your baby lifts his head while on his tummy he looks to both sides. This helps the coordination of 2 eyes together as he follows movement and looks for interesting toys positioned in front of him.
7. “Tummy Time” helps to develop your baby’s throat and mouth area muscles as your baby looks up and moves his head. These are some of the muscles needed for speech and language development later.
8. “Tummy Time” reduces any tightness in the head and neck muscles. For your baby’s brain and nervous system to function at their best the head and neck muscles need to be as free as possible from tightness.
9. “Tummy Time” helps babies to develop both near and far vision. We call this “visual organization” which begins while they are on their tummies. “Visual organization” is especially important later on when your baby grows and finally goes to school. He will need this organization as his eyes switch back and forth from blackboard to desk.
10. “Tummy Time” simply promotes good health and prevents problems related to motor development and learning later. Prevention of problems is always better and easier than trying to fix problems after they happen.