The exercise dreaded by both parents and infants alike: tummy time. Recommended by doctors to produce head, neck and core strength in babies as well as prevent the “flat spots” on the head, tummy time will be beneficial for your baby but I’ve never met a parent that loved it. Tummy time is recommended for the first 5-6 months of a baby’s life – basically until they are able to roll over, since then they can choose whether to be on their back or belly. So not only is it hard but like any exercise it takes time to see results; here are some tips on how to make it through.
Before you can do anything else, you have to start. You have to begin somewhere, but just getting started can be hard. Parents can be afraid to put their baby on their belly because of suffocation, crying, etc. Getting started as soon as possible (first day home from the hospital, assuming no health complications) will be most beneficial. But on the other hand, make sure you start slow. Keep in mind that this is an actual exercise for babies, so just like it doesn’t make sense for you to walk into the gym one day and bench press twice your weight resulting in sore muscles for the next month, neither does it make sense for a baby to be put on tummy time more than a minute or two at a time when first starting out. You can increase the time, intensity, and frequency as time goes on.
Stay on a Schedule
Have a couple times during the day where you routinely put your baby down for tummy time. Remembering to do this exercise was hard for me, because it’s natural to want to do what’s easiest at the time – which usually is not letting your infant cry and scream into the floor.
Implement Toys or Pillows
Putting toys in front of a baby when lying face down will encourage them to lift their head in the early stages of tummy time. Also, putting a small pillow under their chest can help them elevate their head.
Do It With Them
This can be applied to a lot of things involving kids. Your child is going to see tummy time as a more positive thing if you are down on the floor doing it with them. When they are first lifting their head, lay directly across from them so that when they do lift their head, your face (the most interesting thing for them at this time) will be the first thing they see. When they have learned to lift their head and can change sides, lay on whichever side you want them to turn their head to. It really helped Lilly for us to speak to her and encourage her to turn her head to see us.
Remember this takes 5-6 months. There will be progress, but it takes time to build muscle and coordination (just like with lifting weights). Your child may not progress as fast as other babies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s behind. Give yourself grace because this thing is new for you too.
Tummy time really does work! Doctors don’t just recommend this for nothing, and it makes sense when you think about it. This is the beginning of parenting – choosing what is best for your child rather than what is easiest. Keep strong, momma!