The importance of tummy time

The importance of tummy time

Baby Steps

Monday, January 25, 2021

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TUMMY time happens when a parent places a baby on his or her tummy for a short period of time while awake, which experts say can help them build arm and neck strength.

Here are a few factoids and tips from Mayo Clinic about making this time worthwhile for your baby, while keeping them safe.

Tummy time can start as early as the umbilical cord falls off, and can be a great way for mom and baby to bond.

1. Tummy time can help your baby develop strong neck and shoulder muscles and promote motor skills. Tummy time can also prevent the back of your baby's head from developing flat spots (positional plagiocephaly). If a baby's head is left in the same position for long periods of time, the skull bone plates might move in a way that creates a flat spot. While it's recommended that you place your baby on his or her back to sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, tummy time gives a baby the chance to experience a different position. This can help reduce the risk of flat spots.

2. Tummy time can also help your baby build strength needed for sitting up, rolling over, crawling and walking.

3. Start tummy time by spreading out a blanket in a clear area. After a diaper change or nap, place your baby on his or her stomach on the blanket for three to five minutes. Try doing this two to three times a day. As your baby gets used to tummy time, place your baby on his or her stomach more frequently or for longer periods of time. You might arrange age-appropriate toys within his or her reach. Remember, however, that both you and your baby should be awake during this time. Never leave your baby unattended during tummy time.

4. Your baby should always be closely supervised during tummy time. Hold a colourful toy or make an interesting noise to encourage your baby to pick up his or her head. Many newborns get fussy or frustrated on their tummies, so keep these sessions brief at first — just a few minutes at a time. If drowsiness sets in, place your baby on his or her back to sleep.

Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says lack of tummy time seems to delay the development of motor skills such as rolling over and crawling.

“It is important that babies spend supervised time on their stomachs when they are awake so they develop strong shoulder and neck muscles,” the AAP says.

The AAP recommends that, beginning on the first day home from the hospital, parents should play with the baby two to three times each day while he/she is on his/her stomach. Start with three to five minutes. Over the next few months, gradually increase that time period and the frequency of tummy time until the baby has about one hour each day.

Note that some babies cannot tolerate, or just dislike tummy time altogether. The AAP recommends side lying as a great alternative. Place your baby on a blanket on his or her side; if needed, prop the baby's back against a rolled-up towel for support. If the baby's head needs support, place a small, folded washcloth under the head. Both of baby's arms should be in front, and you should bring the legs forward at the hips and bend the knees to make the baby comfortable.

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