Tummy time is a routine activity where babies are placed on their stomachs for a few minutes at a time while awake. It helps them learn about the movement of their bodies and develop the core physical skills required for rolling over, sitting, and crawling.
It also strengthens the neck muscles and reduces the amount of time the baby spends in restrictive devices like sleepers or car seats. This provides the added benefit of alleviating other conditions like plagiocephaly and torticollis — more on that later.
First, let's dive into the best practices when it comes to the right age for starting tummy time, and how long it should be done per day.
Tummy time is an important activity for reaching developmental milestones and should be part of your baby's daily routine. In fact, tummy time can be started as early as a few days after they're born.
However, keep in mind that tummy time should be done in brief intervals of 2-3 minutes at a time, working up to 3-5 minutes as they get older.
Naturally, younger babies will need to start slower and may even require shorter intervals than recommended — and that's OK! The important thing is that you help your baby progress overtime into longer intervals, further developing their motor skills.
Not every baby is going to enjoy tummy time. This is why it's stressed that the activity is something you work to build tolerance toward overtime. On the other hand, some babies may thrive with the activity!
Regardless of your struggles (or lack thereof) with tummy time, these tips will be helpful to every unique situation.
Your baby will develop better head control and upper body strength while learning to lift the head and neck.
As your baby gets stronger, he or she will push up onto extended arms to reach and play. This prepares the baby for sitting and crawling.
Your baby develops full body strength which enables them to crawl and explore his or her surroundings!
As mentioned earlier, tummy time is helpful for developing important motor skills, but it also provides benefit for babies in other ways.
Visual stimulation is another benefit of the tummy position. When a baby is on their back they can only see the ceiling and objects on either side. A baby placed on their tummy will lift their head and view the world at eye-level.
Plagiocephaly prevention, otherwise known as flat spots, or "flat head syndrome". When a baby spends extended periods of time on their backs, they are at a greater risk of developing a flat spot due to the natural forces on their head. Tummy time helps babies develop the strength required to reposition their heads during sleep and other routine activities.
In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published recommendations to put healthy babies to sleep on their backs. This resulted in a reduction of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but also led to an increased risk of flat spots.
Tummy time helps alleviate pressure to the head and encourages more independence in head positioning. In instances of mild cases of plagiocephaly, the benefits can often prevent or treat flat spots entirely.
Yes, putting babies sleep on their backs saves lives!
According to the American Academy of Pediatricians, the move to back sleeping, known as the Back to Sleep campaign, has reduced SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by more than 50%.
With consistent tummy time, your baby will strengthen the muscles necessary to reposition themselves during sleep, reducing the risk of plagiocephaly.
Repositioning techniques are also helpful in reducing the risk of flat spots. Baby's can often favor a particular side when lying on their backs. Adjusting the position of your baby's head in these positions is helpful in reducing the amount of prolonged pressure to one side of the head.
Limiting the amount of time spent in restrictive devices like car seats, sleepers, and more is also an effective way to reduce risk.