Sometimes little ones cry and cry when you first initiate tummy time and you may be tempted to skip it. But pediatricians recommend it just as they advise you on the importance of your baby sleeping on his back, other safety and wellness precautions and the importance of your interactions with your baby.
Even if your little one doesn't like tummy time from the start, don't skip it.
Tummy time — an important activity that helps your little one develop his neck, shoulder and torso muscles — should be done daily in small sessions and continue as baby grows until he's strong enough to crawl.
Anne Zachry, author of Retro Baby: Cut Back on All the Gear and Boost Your Baby's Development (American Academy of Pediatrics; 2013), and chairwoman of the department of occupational therapy at the University of Tennessee Health Center, realized the importance of tummy time during her work with children who had been referred to her for their poor handwriting. In a brief survey of the children's parents, Zachry learned that many of them had skipped tummy time for their kids when they were infants.
"The majority of these kids with fine motor and handwriting issues did not have tummy time," she says. And most of them had skipped the crawling stage altogether. Many of them had been kept in baby carriers, but if you do this and skip daily tummy time sessions, you actually risk hindering their motor development.
Zachry urges parents to limit the amount of time their babies spend in carriers and suggests developing good tummy time routines.
"With tummy time, babies use their neck and trunk and shoulder muscles — also their hands," Zachry says. The reason infants will resist is that it's hard at first — especially for little ones with poor head control.
Meanwhile the most important aspect of tummy time is YOUR role in it. It's about making it pleasant, gentle and doing it daily … together. Don't just put your infant on his tummy on a blanket and start scrolling in your phone. Do tummy time with him.
"You need to get down there and entertain," Zachry says.
It's about strengthening the muscles and lifting the head … and helping your baby get a good look at the amazing world around him.
TUMMY TIME TIPS
• In the beginning, newborn tummy time should consist of two- to- three 3-minute daily sessions
• As Baby gets older and stronger, increase the length of tummy time sessions, working up to 20 minutes a day
• By 4 months, your baby should be able to lift his chest off the floor and lean on his elbows with his head upright
• Lessen the amount of time spent on tummy time if Baby cries
• Get down on the floor and be the face Baby tries to look up and see
• Use a stuffed animal or a small toy
— American Academy of Pediatrics