So, you’re sitting in a big circle of moms, all with babies the same age as yours, and the class leader asks, “how many babies in here hate tummy time?” You’re surprised and secretly relieved to see that all but one hand goes shooting up and heads start to nod vigorously. Ohhhh, so it’s not just my baby. . . none of them like it . . . . yet!
It’s always a relief to learn that your baby is perfectly normal and it turns out that the one mom who didn’t raise her hand, has a baby who is a few weeks older than the rest and she’s been “working” on tummy time for a while. “Trust me, my baby hated it in the beginning too!”
So what’s the big deal? Do we have to “work” on tummy time and if so, how do we help our babies get comfortable and eventually, come to love it?
Let’s talk first about the benefits of tummy time and why it’s so important.
- Tummy time strengthens neck, back, arm and hand muscles, and improves agility.
- Tummy time is the logical way to counter all that safety imposed “on the back” time our babies do. It’s a must to put babies on their backs to sleep and they are also often in carseats and other devices during the day.
- Tummy time helps babies develop cognitive skills, otherwise known as thinking and reasoning skills, due to the perspective and view of the world they gain in an upright position. Believe it or not, once they get strong there, they love it!
- The deep pressure on the belly during tummy time aids in neurological organization, which is connected to the ability to regulate in and out of sleep. That pressure is also soothing to their immature digestive systems and helps with gas!
- Tummy time optimizes your baby’s gross motor development, which at this age looks like rolling, squirming and moving around. This ability is directly related to improved sleep, as babies who choose their own favorite sleep position typically sleep better, just like we big people!
- Research shows that future fine motor skills are enhanced by plenty of tummy time early on. These include any refined movements of the hands such as writing or playing an instrument.
- Tummy time is the first step in the natural developmental progression to crawling, pulling independently to a stand, cruising and eventually, walking.
So why do they hate it so much in the beginning?
We find that so much of what babies appear to dislike are merely things they are not yet accustomed to or familiar with. Tiny babies need to move into tummy time very slowly and parents need a lot of support. Babies spend the first nine months of their lives in the liquid space of the womb. The concept of gravity is dramatically different when compared to their previous floating experience. The key is to start early and build gradually.
Also, as mentioned above, these days, our babies are definitely overly familiar with being on their backs.
The good news is that there are many techniques and creative tips for turning this “work” of tummy time into “play!”
Here at The Pump Station and Nurtury™, I am part of the team of class leaders who support parents in reaching that seemingly insurmountable goal of “10 minutes of tummy time per waking hour,” in our Mommy and Me classes as well as in my special Hot Topics class “Tummy Time Fun”.
Parents will learn how tummy time can be an easy and fun part of your baby’s daily routine. Each baby and parent leaves the class with concrete strategies to help ease their baby’s transition to happy, purposeful, and consistent tummy time play.
Claudia Kerns, PT, a pediatric physical therapist, joins me for the Hot Topics class, lending her expert guidance as we practice different modifications and support the progress of each baby and parent.
One of the cutest ways to get your baby to stay longer in tummy time is to place her face to face with a fellow baby in the class. They love looking at each other! Meanwhile, you’ll get lots of support from your mommy classmates for how challenging this can be, especially in the beginning.
So come and join us, get down on the floor and let’s have some fun with tummy time!