Expert Advice on the Importance of Tummy Time for Babies

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Image via Flickr/ John Wright

Every new parent is taught that their baby needs to sleep on their back because it’s the safest position. New parents are also taught that their baby needs tummy time but they aren’t given much guidance. When your little one is wailing and seems to hate the very idea of tummy time, what do you do? 

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Image via Flickr/ Carolien Dekeersmaeker

Tummy time is so important because it helps babies develop neck and torso strength. Hindi Zeidman, baby expert and founder of The Ollie Swaddle explains that your baby gradually needs more time on their tummy to help them reach milestones during their first year of life.

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Image via Flickr/ David Goehring

When should tummy time start?

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Tummy time is needed daily, beginning at birth. Initially, laying your little one on her tummy helps to strengthen her motor skills, including raising her head, rolling over, and eventually sitting up. But that’s not all. Tummy time will benefit your little one’s brain development as well. She will see her world from a different perspective, helping her to become more aware of her surroundings.

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Image via Flickr/ george ruiz

How long should tummy time last?

Pediatric recommendations range from 30-60 minutes of tummy time each day, whether it happens all at once or is spread throughout the day in smaller increments. By the time your little one is three months old, she should be getting at least 90 minutes of tummy time every day. Studies have shown that infants who get this amount of tummy time are quicker to reach milestones in the first years of life.

At first, your little one will probably cry during tummy time because it will feel much different. Start slow, letting your baby lay on her tummy for a few minutes at a time, building up for longer periods. 

{ MORE: Using the Montessori Approach with Infants }

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Image via Flickr/ Scott Sherrill-Mix

Tips for making tummy time fun

Your newborn will want nothing more than to be held and cuddled. Try lounging back on the couch and letting your little one have tummy time on your torso and chest. Since your newborn can’t see very far from her face, this is the perfect introduction to tummy time.

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How do I transition to tummy time on the floor?

As you transition to tummy time on her own, try laying her on her tummy up high–like on your bed–where you can sit and interact with her. Since she can’t lift her head very far yet, this will help her be able to see more of her surroundings than she would on the floor. Of course, if you do this, it is very important that you stay right beside her so she doesn’t wiggle off of the bed.

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Image via Flickr/ madika

What do I do once my baby is on the floor?

Once you’re ready to lay your little one on the floor for tummy time, try using a play mat with bright colors and toys to help peak her interest. If she is distracted and entertained, she will be less likely to fuss because she wants to be held or is uncomfortable. Remember that the idea of tummy time is to challenge her muscles and help her to gain independence.

Until she is able to hold her head up on her own, you may try propping her up on a pillow so that she can see more of what’s around her. A pillow will also help cushion her so that she is more comfortable than laying flat on a hard floor. However, keep in mind that sleep safety recommendations include removing fluffy pillows from the crib, so stay with your little one while she is laying on the pillow.

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Remember, your little one is picking up on all of your cues and looking to you for encouragement. By interacting and staying positive even if she gets fussy, you are showing her that everything is okay. 

{ MORE: 5 Tips for Flying with Your Toddler }

How do you make sure your baby gets tummy time?

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Expert Advice on the Importance of Tummy Time for Babies

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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