As our babies grow, they need new ways to exercise their bodies and brains. Sitting up, rolling over and putting random items in her mouth all make new connections in her brain and help her develop coordination. Making sure your baby has plenty of time out of her crib or car seat has many crucial benefits. Spending time playing on her stomach, aka Tummy Time, strengthens her neck and back muscles. Most importantly, tummy time can help your baby stay safe by reducing the risk of SIDS.
During Tummy Time your baby is lifting her head and using all the muscles in her upper body. Essentially doing a miniature baby plank. The ability to lift her head up can help your baby avoid rebreathing her air if she rolls on her stomach or gets into a tight spot. The saying “back to sleep, tummy to play” is a good way to remember to put your little one on her tummy when you or a caregiver is watching. Then always put your baby to sleep on her back without any pillows or blankets in the crib with her.
There are many reasons to let your baby play on her stomach as much as possible:
- Upper body strength for safety and repositioning (see above)
- Reduce the risk of positional plagiocephaly (flat spot on the head). Usually if a flat spot does develop, it will be on the back of the head from the pressure of her head being in contact with her crib or car seat for extended periods of time. Around 20% of babies have a flat spot on their head that resolves as they approach 1 year of age
- Tummy time helps your baby reach physical milestones on time since they are moving and using muscles in different ways
- Have an interesting toy within reach so your baby can practice moving her body, reaching and grasping
Safe tummy time tips:
- Tummy time should be after a nap or other time when your baby is wakeful.
- Carefully watch your baby, make sure she isn’t spitting up
- Wait 30-45 minutes after feeding to allow for digestion time
- Tummy time can be on your/dad’s/caregivers chest too
- Don’t give up if your baby gets cranky, start for 2-3 minutes at a time.
There are several other recommendations for safe sleep from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Read the full article here https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162940#sec-17