The Importance of Tummy Time

As a new parent, you’ve probably heard the term “tummy time” and been told it is an important part of your baby’s development. But why is tummy time so important and how do you go about providing tummy time to your infant?

What is Tummy Time?
Tummy time is when a baby is laid on their belly while awake so they can practice holding up their head, looking side to side and supporting weight on their arms.

The Benefits of Tummy Time
Tummy time is extremely important in helping your little one build strength in their neck, shoulders, arms and trunk. Building strength in these key areas will help your baby roll, sit and eventually crawl.  It also helps your child to maintain a round head shape. It is important to remember that tummy time should only be done when your child is awake.

Tummy Time Tips
So how do you go about helping your child learn to love tummy time? Here are some tips:

  1. Start slowly. Place your baby on his/ her belly for 1 to 2 minutes. You can do this 4 or 5 times a day. Slowly increase the length of time your baby is on their belly – with the end goal being 10 minute sessions 4 to 5 times per day. By 4 month of ages, your child can be on their tummy for up to 90 minutes each day!
  2. In between tummy time sessions, practice rolling and reaching with your baby.
  3. Tummy time doesn’t have to be done on the floor! Trying laying baby on your chest while you lie flat on your back. Being able to look up and see mom or dad can be much more enjoyable for your child.
  4. Consider placing a rolled up towel under your baby’s chest from armpit to armpit. Adding a towel will make it easier for baby to life their head and push up.
  5. Does your child have a favorite toy? Give it to him/her to play with during tummy time. This will help your baby learn to reach. Prop baby’s elbows under his shoulders to help him/her practice bearing weight while reaching.
  6. Consider propping a mirror up in front of your baby during tummy time. Babies love to look at themselves so this can also help them practice bearing weight.
  7. Not all babies like tummy time. Following the tips above can help them to better enjoy it over time. You can also help by placing your hands under baby’s chest and lifting gently to help him/her push up. As your child gains neck and head control, hold them tummy side down or play ‘airplane’. This will help your child get more accustomed to spending time on their tummy.

For more tummy time tips, check out our Helping Hand!

Beth Martin, RN
Beth Martin RNC, MSN, graduated from Otterbein College with a BSN and completed my MSN in 2010. She has worked at Nationwide Children’s in the NICU since 1996. In 2004, a multidisciplinary group developed the Small Baby guidelines. The guidelines outline the care of <27 week preemies from the time of admission to discharge. We have presented Small Baby data and outcomes all over the United States. Our outcomes have improved; decreased length of stay, mortality and morbidity rates, and ventilator days. She is also a mom to two beautiful boys, ages 6 1/2 and 3, who keep her very busy! She love spending time with family, camping, swimming and watching kids movies!

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