IN AN AGE where babies are enrolled in schools before they take their first steps, parents are under a lot of pressure to make sure their children reach their milestones on time (although most parents secretly plan to fly through the milestones way ahead of schedule!)
A lot of parents are told to ‘try tummy time’ or ‘start tummy time’, and suddenly feel pressure to not only keep their newborn alive, but to start on a training program immediately. Parents, and babies, hate tummy time because it can be boring and stressful if you don’t find the right way for your baby. But it can and should be fun! Tummy time is a natural and beneficial part of a baby’s life, and parents often do it without noticing.
I have compiled a short guide on how to make some of the first activities of your baby’s life fun for both of you.
The big fuss about tummy time is that babies need to learn to use the muscles that lift their heads and prop up their shoulders so that they can look around and ultimately sit up and crawl. If a baby is never turned on their tummy, they will remain floppy and have a hard time catching up on their milestones. Each child is different, and will reach certain milestones at different times. I want to encourage parents that it is your job to give your child the best chance to learn do things at their own speed, not to speed up the process. Please never feel pressure for your child to develop just like other babies.
Tummy time is also useful for babies who have congenital torticollis, a condition where the baby’s head is turned to one side due to pain or stiff muscles. Tummy time helps to relax and train the neck muscles, and to prevent babies from developing a flat spot on their skulls. If your baby has torticollis, remember to take them to a chiropractor to have it looked at.
Experts on the subject suggest starting on Day One! And you probably did without noticing right from the start. At first, ten minutes is all a baby needs, and all you will have time between their sleeps. By the time your baby is three months old, you should aim for 1 hour of tummy time spread across a day during their awake time.
There are so many options that you should be able to find something that works for you and baby. Firstly, make sure your timing is sensitive to baby’s mood. While baby is awake and relaxed, or even slightly dozy is a good time. When they seem to get tired of it, take a break and try again later in the day.
Next, find a method that is least stressful for both of you.
- Lie down with baby on your chest (You could also breastfeed your baby in this position and it would count as tummy time!)
- Put your baby on your lap and very gently move your legs side to side or up and down.
- Let your baby’s father lie down with baby on his chest before bath time in the evenings.
- Carry baby with their tummy facing down for a few minutes every day. Put your elbow between baby’s legs and support their head with your hand. (This position is also very helpful for gassy or colicky babies)
- Before changing their nappy, place your baby on his tummy on the changing mat for a few seconds.
- Put baby on the bed and lie in front of her or put her favourite toy in front of her.
- Older babies enjoy a play mat with bright colours and toys strewn around. Don’t be discouraged if your baby doesn’t like this at first, they feel isolated on the ground. Get down on the floor with him and keep talking to him.
- Carefully rest your baby on his tummy on a pilates ball for a little while. As they get closer to eight weeks, you can slowly and carefully rock the ball a bit. This is a nice activity to do while facing a mirror or a partner, so that baby has something to look at.
Always make sure that your baby can see and hear you during tummy time, and remember not to do it on a full stomach. Also remember to put toys on both their left and right side, so that they will learn to look towards both sides and grasp with both hands. And remember to have fun, playtime is play time after all!
Most babies experience some degree of trauma during birth. If you feel concerned about this, it is a great idea to take your baby to a chiropractor who treats babies to assess and treat their spine.
A Newborn Workout? Experts Say “Yes!”. Gay Girolami, PT, MS, FAACPDM.