Why is Tummy Time Important?
Debbie O’Connor, MPH, OTR/L
When your baby is lying on their tummy, they are engaging in one of the most important developmental milestones for later academic achievement! Tummy time provides the following stimulation:
1. Strengthening the shoulder and arm muscles needed for coloring, writing and throwing a ball.
2. Promoting head and neck control and core muscle strength needed for crawling and sitting.
3. Stimulating the eyes to raise up to horizontal plane and strengthens the eye muscles that are needed for reading, as your baby tries to focus on the toy on the floor.
4. Encourages rolling over, which stimulates our vestibular (or movement) sense, which is the foundation for motor development and learning.
Some children who do not spend enough time on their tummy, do not crawl appropriately or walk too early/late, tend to struggle in school.
My baby doesn’t like to be on his tummy. What should I do?
Tummy time and crawling are vital, not only for motor development, but cognitive development as well. Here are some fun and easy ways to encourage tummy time!
- Mommy or Daddy Tummy Time: Lie on your back and put your baby on your tummy facing you. He should naturally push up or turn his head to try to see you and respond to your voice. Your face and voice are the best motivators! It will also encourage language development.
- Sit on a chair and lay your baby across your lap. Place your hand on the small of his back to give him a little support. This is a good position to burp your baby in, as they are usually happiest after eating!
- After you change your baby’s diaper, turn him over and put a toy or your face at his level and encourage him to lift his head and push up on arms. Always have your hand on his back for safety, especially if he is rolling over.
- Start each day with tummy time, after breakfast. Time how long he tolerates being on his tummy. If it is only 1 minute, that’s okay! Don’t give up. The next day try to increase it to two minutes. You will be surprised how quickly the time increases to 10 minutes. You may want to roll a small receiving blanket and place it under his chest to help separate his arms from his chest and encourage weight bearing.
- Carry your baby lying on his tummy across your forearm, with your other arm on your baby’s back for support. You can gently sway your arms to provide movement.
How do I encourage development beyond tummy time?
- When you arrive home, take your baby out of her carrier. Use carriers/equipment only when necessary. YOU, the floor and toys are the best stimulators for development! Your baby is not using any abdominal muscles, back or neck muscles when in a carrier. Imagine lying in a recliner all day! Your muscles would start to get very tight and weak.
- Carry her around while working around the house. This also encourages head and neck stability, stomach/back muscle control, elicits balance reactions as you move, and stimulates the vestibular (movement) sense.
- In the grocery store or restaurant, allow your infant to sit in the grocery cart seat or high chair, if he is sitting independently.
- In public settings such as church, doctor’s office or waiting rooms, sit your baby on your lap and play peek-a-boo or horsey ride. If possible, carry your baby in your arms whenever possible.