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Why Do Babies Need Tummy Time?


Parents used to be advised that the safest position for sleep was baby on tummy. That’s no longer the case -- although your mom, and her mom, will probably continue telling you how it worked for them! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has since advised that putting babies “Back To Sleep,” or laying them down on their backs to go to sleep, is the safest method possible. It significantly lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which is the nightmare scenario of every parent out there. It means, however, that babies are not spending any time on their tummies anymore, and all this lying on their back can result in one side, or the back, of the head becoming flattened (“flat head” syndrome). Babies have very soft, malleable skulls, so it is quite easy to reverse this phenomenon if you see it starting to happen. This is where tummy time comes in.

What Does Tummy Time Do?

Tummy time is an important part of taking care of baby. This is just a portion of the day – at least 30 minutes, although it doesn’t have to be all at once – that you set aside to let your little one play on his stomach. With baby on stomach, he can practice strengthening his back and neck muscles and trying to roll over, which will improve his coordination and balance.

Choose a time of the day when your baby is happy, perhaps just after a nap and with a fresh, clean diaper on. Lie her down on a soft floor or blanket and put some toys next to her so that she doesn’t get too fussy. Bright, colorful, crinkly toys are good, as are mirrors or toys with flashing lights. Try keeping her barefoot, so that her toes can grip the floor. Some babies love tummy time and some of them hate it, but it’s a pretty important exercise for the development of their muscles and also for preventing that flat head we talked about, so try to persevere. When they’ve made it clear they’ve had enough, pick them up and try again later.

Very young babies will find it difficult to keep their heads lifted at all, so make sure you are right there with them and can help reposition their heads so their faces aren’t squished into the floor. Talk and sing and play, whatever it takes to get baby equating tummy time with fun time. Another good tip is to lie down on your back, and lay your baby face-down on your stomach, facing you. He will feel safe with you there and love to look at your face. This is a great way to ease him into it as a newborn. As babies get older, they will get better at keeping their heads up, at reaching for things around them, and will soon learn how to roll over from this position.

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