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Welcome parents and congratulations on your expectant or new baby!
In this post, we are going to discuss what is tummy time, when you can put your baby in tummy time and how you can promote play. Yes there are ways for you to play with your newborn baby and tummy time is a great way for you to do that.
What is tummy time?
Tummy time is when you place your baby on their stomach, during wake and supervised times, and it gives your baby the opportunity to help build their neck strength, it helps prevent flat spots on their head, strengthen their hands which in turn will strengthen their fine motor development and also build their overall gross motor development.
When can you start tummy time?
Always consult with your child’s pediatrician for when you can be cleared to start tummy time with your newborn.
I personally did not start floor time tummy time until after my son was about two months old. I liked the idea of skin-to-skin tummy time where my son was laying on my chest and he would look up at me. In addition, my son lost a lot of weight after birth and I wanted to make sure he was able to rebuild his strength.
Did you know that laying your baby on your chest also is considered tummy time and also the “football” hold is considered to be tummy time as well? If you decide to have your baby engaged in skin-to-skin tummy time, for the safety and well-being of your child, the adult holding the newborn must be awake during this period.
Can I have my baby in the tummy time position while they are sleeping?
It is recommended tummy time be supervised and during periods when your baby is awake. If your baby shows signs of tiredness, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the safest place for a child to sleep is in a safe sleep space and on their back. Stop tummy time when noticing sleepy signs and place your child in their safe sleep space.
When is the best time to have my baby in tummy time?
The time that worked best for us was after my son woke up. Our routine looked like:
- Wake up
- Diaper change
- Tummy time
The reason why I liked this order was because newborn wake windows are so small, that if you feed them right away and then you have to wait for their stomach to settle. By the time their stomach settles, they might be getting ready for another nap and you might not be able to fit in tummy time during their wake period. Placing your baby on his/her stomach too soon increases the risk of spit up from your baby.
Keep in mind too, your newborn may only be able to handle tummy time for a couple to a few minutes at a time as well.
How can I play with my child during tummy time?
There are so many ways you can play with your newborn during tummy time!
One way is, you can place a mirror in front of your child. This will encourage your child’s head to look up which will help build strength in their neck or you can lay down in front of your baby and talk and sing to them.
Did you know that newborns see in black and white typically up until the age of 4 months and can only see approximately 8-10 inches away according to healthline.com? Having you or other items near their range of vision will help encourage eye contact and they will be more successful exploring their environment when you are staying within their limitations.
Another idea is to place items, such as links or black and white toys, in front of them but slightly to the right and slightly to the left. This way, it will encourage your child to look in both directions and establish range of motion in their neck, and they can feel for the objects with their hands.
Have items available for your child that they are able to grab and hold with their tiny hands.
What do I do if my newborn doesn’t like tummy time?
Keep in mind, your child has been in a tight small space for the last 9 months and you are now expecting them to use their muscles in a new way that they haven’t been exposed to before. There is most likely going to be resistance and tears because they are building their strength and it is hard for them.
If you have concerns, always consult with your pediatrician to rule out an underlying medical condition that could impact your child’s response to tummy time.
Once your pediatrician has given you the “all clear,” I would encourage you to try tummy time in a different room, provide different toys, try a different position, or see if your child responds to tummy time longer with a different caregiver.
Some other toy items you might want to consider are wrist rattles, to be placed on during wake times, wrist jingle bells, which you can place on their wrist or ankles, or battery free musical instruments. You can play with these instruments in order to try to distract your child and engage them in tummy time for longer periods.
Now that we have covered a little bit about tummy time, that leads us right into talking about some ideas for tummy time mats. Tummy time mats are great because you can have your child in a safe space while also providing them opportunities to look at and engage in toys that might be hanging down from the bars of the mat if you place them on their back.
When starting tummy time with your baby, remember to always consult with your pediatrician, try out different positions, be consistent, patient, and have fun!