Tummy time for kids, though sounds simple, is an important milestone achievement activity for kids, especially around 2 months. It is not only fun for them but also has its benefits when it comes to boosting their physical development. Experts also believe that since in this position the stomach gets pressed, it is also an effective way to give baby relief from intestinal gas and stomach ache accruing from it. It is also seen as an important milestone to be achieved when the baby gets on the tummy and enjoys being in that position since it a precursor to crawling and eventually walking. The entire act of lying prone includes–
- Lying straight on the back with face upwards
- Lying sideways with the head turned to one side (left or right)
- Chest and tummy down
- Followed by head and neck control; lifting the neck momentarily
This milestone develops at different phases in babies. Some might develop as early as two months, and some get it around three months as well. But the process remains the same.
- why is tummy time for kids important
- when should you start putting the baby on her tummy
- for how long is one episode of tummy time activity good for the baby
- how to start tummy time activity
- how to deal with a baby who is not cooperating for tummy time
- a month-by-month expected progress in tummy time related skills and milestones
- a few precautions to take note of during tummy time
Role of tummy time in meeting the milestones
Tummy time for kids allows the baby to figure out how to push herself up and crawl. She learns more movements such as roll over, sit upright post mastering tummy time.
It helps your baby learn head and neck control.
Improves muscle strength:
When on her belly, your baby gets more chances to move and use her upper body muscles. Thus it strengthens the paraspinal ( muscles supporting the spine and those responsible for a number of movements) and abdominal muscles. It also enhances the synergistic pattern in both upper and lower limbs. It improves gross motor and proprioceptive skills.
Prevents flat head syndrome:
The longer your baby lies on her stomach, the less chance of developing flat head syndrome (positional plagiocephaly)
Development of senses:
It is easier to grab or hold things when lying on stomach. Hence your baby’s s a sense of touch gets boosted by exposure to and feeling different textures ( of the blanket, toys, mat, etc.) with her hands, face, arms, etc. The more your baby moves when on tummy, she develops the awareness of her position with respect to the surrounding. A sense of balance also develops by the change of position.
As she gets more chances to use her hand in that position, your baby develops hand-eye coordination rapidly.
Research says, the earlier the babies try to get in the tummy position, the easier it becomes for them to crawl, sit and eventually move.
Some babies start with tummy time as late as 3 months but that does not imply any developmental delays in children.
When and for how long
- You can start putting your little one on her belly as soon as you are confident enough to handle her little body, close to around 2 weeks. In the beginning, start by placing her belly down on your chest (while lying down) or lap to get her accustomed to the new position. A good start is to place her like this during a diaper change. Then you can move to making her lie on the bed or a thick blanket or on a thin mattress laid down on the floor.
- Do not practice this right after feeding her. Pressure on her belly may make her throw up. Best time to do this exercise is when she is alert and less likely to fall asleep, like right after a nap or after changing her diaper.
- You can start by trying it for 2/3 minutes at a stretch and then gradually increase the time up to 5 minutes at different times of the day.
How to start on boost tummy time
1. Let the child be in the prone position (lying on her tummy).
2. Observe her responses (make sure that she feels comfortable); she will try to lift head with the help of her elbows.
3. Now you can place her on your chest in the prone position.
4. Keep communicating with her. Talk to her, sing or make gentle cooing sounds to encourage her to try and make eye contact with you.
5. She will try to lift her chin up, stretch hands for support and you will feel the gentle push of legs.
6. Keep communicating with the child throughout the activity. This also keeps her energy going and she is less likely to give up.
Avoid the activity if you sense any discomfort in her. The baby will communicate this to you by crying or making pained noises. Follow the baby’s cues to understand what she wants and desires. When she will be tired, she will want to be put upright again so that she can now relax her tired body.
The American Physical Therapy Association has urged parents to ensure that babies get enough “tummy time” throughout the day. It has come in light of a survey of therapists who say they’ve noticed an increase in motor delays in infants who spend too much time on their backs while awake.
What if my baby doesn’t like being on her tummy?
Most babies hate being on their tummies in the beginning. If your infant is one of them, do not stop trying. Remember, tummy time is a medically-proven activity that encourages a number of developmental movements in your tiny tot.
If you continue with this activity, your baby will most likely be able to tolerate or even enjoy tummy time, once her muscles become strong enough and she can lift her head. Initially, you can motivate her to remain in the tummy-down position for a while by following a few simple steps:
- Set up a comfortable, soft and safe place for her. A soft blanket on a firm surface will do or a lightly padded mattress. The floor will be an ideal place for your baby’s first exercise routine. But initially try placing her on your chest in a tummy down position. This will allow her to feel comfortable and also feel close and connected to you
- Start the session when she is awake, comfortable, alert, and happy.
- Try shorter sessions in the beginning. Let her practice it for 1 or 2 minutes at a time and space them out throughout the day to make it less strenuous for your little one.
- Roll a towel up and place it under her chest and armpits so that she can support her chest more comfortably. This can motivate her to use the upper part of her body to push herself up.
- When placing her on her stomach, you too do the same next to her, to help her process what is being done and entertain her with your facial expressions.
- Choose a different location when she starts showing signs of laxity and boredom. Just a change in the surroundings can make tummy time bearable for her.
- If she starts crying, do not pick her up immediately. Try to comfort her initially in the tummy down position itself. You can try singing a song or massaging her back or feet to comfort her for a while. If she relaxes then you can continue insisting on tummy time else put her back in the original position.
- Do not make it an exercise for her. Instead, try to make it fun.
- If she still hates tummy time, take a day or a couple of days off and start again.
- Back massage is the best way to make her lie on her belly. Most babies love the gentle oil massage on the back. You can massage her for a few minutes by placing the baby down on her belly and massage her back then.
- While sleeping, put the baby in side-lying position as much as possible.
- Place some toys at the side (left/right) of the baby, so that she tries to reach out to them by moving her face towards them.
- Place the baby on a colourful mat with letters and pictures to attract her to continue in the same position.
- Use ‘lap technique’ with tummy down position, while burping
- Besides practicing it on the floor, carry your baby on your chest with her tummy down or hold her on your lap in the same position. The more she remains in that position, the more she will get used to it.
Expected progress by age
Sometimes, you may feel like giving up if your baby is not cooperating, but you will eventually see the progress your baby will make in the coming months. Here’s a month-by-month description of the improved abilities you might observe in your baby:
In 1 month:
Most probably your newborn will be able to turn her head when on her belly. She will also try to lift her head even though she can’t stay in that position for more than a few moments.
In 2 months:
Now your baby can bear with the belly down position for a while and can do it many a times during the day.
She may rest her head on one side. Make sure she turns her head both the sides, alternatively, to avoid positional strain.
In 3 months:
Your little one will have improved her head control and can lift her head to 45 degrees with the support of her arms. She will be able to follow a moving toy by moving her head when on her stomach. Tummy time has become tolerable for a longer duration now.
In 4 months:
She will be able to push her head up to 90 degrees and lift her chest off the floor, with the support of her elbows. She will also turn her head to follow the movement of a toy, your voice or faces when on her tummy.
In 5 months:
Your baby will try to push herself up with straight arms and stretch her hands forward to reach a nearby toy. With your support you can encourage her to sit up for a few moments too.
In 6 months:
During her tummy time for kids, by now your baby will be able to roll over from tummy to back and back to stomach and have more control over her body when on her belly. She will also move in different directions with the support of her arms when on the tummy and will be able to grab toys.
Precautions to be kept in mind during tummy time for kids
- Never let your baby sleep on her stomach. If she falls asleep, turn her on her back for a nap. Sleeping on her tummy may increase the risk of SID (Sudden Infant Death).
- If your baby has any medical conditions, such as heart ailments, it is best advised to check with a doctor before trying any of these at home yourself.
- Never leave the baby unattended on her stomach. Also, once the baby has mastered neck control, ensure your practice the exercise on the floor. Chances of her rolling off the bed are higher when she practices tummy time for kids.
- Remove any sharp objects, large sheets of fabric such as stoles or towels present nearby. She can hurt herself or get entangled in the same.
- Look for objects that the baby can take in the mouth and remove them from her vicinity.
Every milestone is unique, and has its own importance. Children should be encouraged to achieve them naturally without restrictions but with full guidance.