7 Top Tips for Successful (and Fun!) Baby Tummy Time
“Baby tummy time.”
For some experienced mothers, this phrase might induce anxiety, especially in your baby’s early days when tummy time might induce plenty of tears (probably from both of you). For a lot of parents, their first reaction is to pull baby out of tummy time as soon as the water works start flowing, but this isn’t necessarily the best course of action.
But for new mothers, you might be asking, what is tummy time exactly?
Tummy Time: A Primer
The name should give you a hint: tummy time is time your baby spends on their tummy. According to the National Institute of Health, babies need tummy time because it
- helps develop strong neck and shoulder muscles
- promotes gross motor skills
- can help prevent flat head syndrome
- helps baby build up strength needed for rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and eventually walking.
The traditional way to start tummy time is by spreading out a blanket or mat on the floor in a clear, flat area and simply laying baby down on their belly. With a newborn, you can start by laying your baby on their belly across your lap or chest for 1 to 2 minutes at a time. Do this up to three times per day. Then, gradually increase up to 3 to 5 minutes for younger infants and continue increasing time as your baby grows.
Some of the best times for tummy time is when your baby is awake after a diaper change, bath, or nap. We highly suggest not to have tummy time after a feeding!
Now, tummy time might not always be easy but you can make it fun with these tips!
First a foremost, be present with your baby during tummy time. Sure, it’s not always the most exciting, activity, and there can often be a lot of tears, but it’s important not to just plop your baby down on the rug and then turn on the television. Be present with baby, whether its rubbing her back or just giving any amount of encouragement, every little bit counts. And remember to stay positive!
Have a Heart to Heart
One of the best ways for both of you to enjoy baby tummy time is going chest-to-chest, or as we like to refer to it—having a “heart-to-heart.” You don’t have to lower yourself all the way to the ground to do this either but instead can lay back against some couch pillows with your newborn snuggled on your chest and looking at your face. Believe it or not, this actually counts as tummy time in the early days. You can start this activity (and bonding time!) on day one. Just keep your torso at a 45-degree angle. Speak to your little one and start getting to know her! Early on, you can do this for 1 to 2 minutes at a time, up to three times per day
Keep it Cozy
If your baby is uncomfortable, being put on her belly (a new and uncomfortable position when she’s just starting out) is only going to make things worse. Therefore, you should try to keep her as comfy and cozy as possible when doing tummy time. This might take a little trial and error to see what works best but certainly putting down a soft blanket first or dressing her up in her favorite onesie or romper might ease things early on!
Of course, one of the quickest ways to keep baby occupied while you’re engaged in tummy time is by a hefty scattering of age appropriate toys within arms’ reach. This way, she can play, learn and strengthen those head and neck muscles all at the same time!
Mirror, Mirror On the… Floor
After a few months or so, your baby’s eyesight will begin to improve so it might be a good time to get her acquainted with herself! When the time is right, place a non-breakable mirror at a 45-degree angle on the floor in front of her so she can see her reflection. This kind of activity is both fun and formational!
We like this one because it’s fun and playful and kind of counts as doing yoga for Mom, too. Although, we will say, this activity requires your baby to have good head control, so it’s best to wait until she is about two or three months old.
First, lie on your back and bring your knees up to your chest with your baby facing you, and then gently place her little body on your shins. Hold her chest to secure her against your legs and let her arms rest on your legs. Now, make your best airplane noises and prepare for take-off. Be on the lookout for giggles and smiles at this one! Oh, and this one is best when your baby hasn’t just had a feeding (major spit-up alert!).
Above all, remember to be persistent, especially in those early days. She might not love it at first and you probably won’t either but it’s incredibly important for your baby to have tummy time so she can grow up agile and strong.
It might not always be easy but with these tips, hopefully you can make it a little more fun. Above all, babies need tummy time and, the good news is, it should only get smoother as your baby grows stronger and develops.