Tummy-Time is the act of putting the baby face down, resting on his/her tummy. You should do this about half-an-hour every day, starting from birth till the baby can roll by himself/herself.
History & Importance of Tummy-Time
Back till the 80s, a lot of infants would die during sleep. This was termed as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in 1969 during the Second International Conference on the Cause of Sudden Death in Infancy in Seattle. These deaths happen without any warning to an absolutely healthy, and postmortems fail to provide any convincing causes of death.
In 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) started a “Back to Sleep” campaign. They recommended that babies should be put to sleep on their backs, rather than on the sides or stomach. And it did wonders! By the end of 90s, the cases of SIDS had dropped to about 50%. See the graph below.
The pediatrics however started seeing a problem among babies who were sleeping on their backs for a prolonged time. It was causing the back of their heads to flatten. And since these babies were on their back most of the time, they were also not using their arms and neck muscles.
To solve these problems, Tummy-Time was started.
How to do Tummy Time?
Tummy-Time is the act of putting the baby on his/her tummy for multiple short periods throughout the day.
For newborns, the parents can lay down themselves and should keep the baby on their chest. You may also sit and keep the baby face-down on the lap. This skin-to-skin contact is also helpful for the emotional well-being of the baby.
Once your baby develops neck strength, you may even keep them on the bed.
Be careful while doing Tummy Time on floor or any hard surface, as the baby may suddenly lose control and hurt his/her head.
When to start & end Tummy Time?
Pediatricians recommend starting Tummy Time right from day one.
For newborns, this should not be more than a few minutes at a time. You can do this 3 to 4 times a day. You can gradually keep stretching the time as the baby grows.
Once the baby is old enough to roll by himself/herself, you don’t need to do this anymore. The baby will keep repositioning as per his/her comfort.
Apart for reducing the risk of SIDS, Tummy Time helps build the baby’s muscles. They develop neck-strength very early. Their arms and shoulders become strong and they will be able to spend more time in that position.
The earlier they start rolling or sitting by themselves, the better it is. It keeps their mood happy as they have more things to stare at. They don’t get cranky soon as they have a variety of things to observe and learn (instead of just looking at the ceiling).
Tummy Time Tantrums, and how to control them
A lot of parents have trouble with Tummy Times. They are apprehensive because they say that their babies start crying or screaming. While this is true, you need to understand why your child is crying in the first place.
Starting with the basics. Babies have a mind of their own. They are not robots . They are not going to obey you all the time. If you want them to have a tummy time while they are hungry or sleepy, it is obviously going to make things difficult for both of you. Try to do tummy times only when the baby is in a playful mood.
Secondly, you need to understand that Tummy Time requires physical strength. If you force the baby, for them it is like going to a Gym when he/she doesn’t want to. So you need to give some toys or activities which your baby can enjoy that time. If you have older kids in the house, you can ask them to play with the baby.
Do not put the baby down on his tummy directly after feeding. That can be annoying for them. In fact, after you have fed them, and give them time till they’ve had a burp. This is when your baby is ready to go to sleep. If they play face-down during this time, they will likely get a little tired and fall asleep easily. This is a much better way to put them to sleep compared to feeding them till they doze off.
To summarize, you should not force them into Tummy Time. If you feel they don’t want to do it, then roll them over. You can try much shorter spans (1 min – 1.5 min) multiple times throughout the day, and that is equally OK.
It’s also about you and your relationship with the baby
By now you know and understand how important Tummy Time is for the baby. But it is also physically and emotionally healthy for you.
A lot of parents nowadays do not have time for their kids. This is because they fail to take time out from the very beginning of their parenthood. Tummy Time is for infants. Taking time out for your baby at this stage is easy, and it go a long way to eventually develop into a habit for you to spend pleasant (and necessary) moments with your child. Just lay down with my baby during his tummy time. I guarantee that those joyful touches and play will be worth every bit of your time.