Why Tummy Time is Important for Your Baby - Breakaway Physical Therapy
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Why Tummy Time is Important for Your Baby

Tummy Time

Spending supervised time on their belly throughout the day is an important part of your baby’s development. Tummy time helps your baby build strength in their upper body, promote trunk stability, and develop head control. These skills are crucial to later developmental skills like rolling, sitting, and crawling. Tummy time also encourages your baby to feel different textures on their arms, hands, and face to improve their sensory awareness, gain body awareness when shifting their weight on the floor, and develop hand-eye coordination when they move to learn what their little bodies are capable of doing. Tummy time is also effective in helping reduce flat spots on the back of the baby’s skull (positional plagiocephaly) and decreasing risk of developing positional torticollis (tightening of the muscles on one side of the neck that cause a head tilt to one side) which has increased since the “Back to Sleep” campaign recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1994 to reduce the occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Tummy time can begin as soon as you bring your baby home with as little as 30 seconds several times a day. A good way to remember to do tummy time in the first few months is right after each diaper change during the daytime hours. Work towards a goal of one hour a day by 3-4 months old in 15-minute increments after naptime and before feeding. Not all babies love tummy time and will often cry and resist it. Here are some tips to make it more enjoyable for both you and your baby.

  • Football hold or tummy down carry position: lay baby across your forearm supporting their head and neck with your hand. This will help them get more comfortable being on their belly.
  • Lay baby on your chest so they can feel secure, hear your heartbeat and voice, and sing a song.
  • Lay baby on belly over your legs and give a soothing back rub.
  • Lay down on the floor in front of baby to sing and make eye contact. It may be helpful to put a rolled-up towel for added support under baby’s chest and upper arms.
  • Try laying baby in front of a mirror so she can see herself or use musical light up toys to engage her.
  • Try a fun activity mat with different textures, rattles, and toys to improve sensory awareness and visual tracking.
  • Baby wearing is also a form of tummy time—it helps them learn to hold their head up and observe the world around them but should not solely replace tummy time for the above developmental reasons.

If you are concerned that your baby may be exhibiting signs of positional plagiocephaly or positional torticollis, we recommend contacting your pediatrician to see if physical therapy is indicated. For most babies, a few visits to physical therapy is all you and your baby will need to get proper instruction in exercises, stretches, and activities you can easily perform at home.

ALWAYS REMEMBER—Back to sleep and tummy to play!

Carissa Reed

Carissa Reed

Carissa started her physical therapy journey in 2001 after graduating from Maryville University in Saint Louis, Missouri with a Bachelor's of Physical Therapy. In 2001, she completed her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill where her focus was in women's health studies specifically the effects of exercise during pregnancy.
Carissa Reed

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