In the early 1990s, the American Academy of Pediatrics began to recommend that infants be placed on their backs to sleep in order to reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It is very important for babies to sleep on their backs, but now infants are spending less time on their tummies even when they are awake.
Your baby needs to spend time on her tummy to help ensure proper growth and development. Tummy time is good for your baby because:
- It helps to decrease the chance of flat spots on your baby’s head.
- It helps prevent tight neck muscles.
- It strengthens the back, neck and arm muscles that help with holding up the head, rolling over, sitting and crawling.
The best time to have tummy time is when your baby is awake and happy and you or another adult is closely watching.
- Start tummy time on your baby’s first day home from the hospital.
- Have tummy time several times throughout the day during playtime.
- Never leave your baby alone during tummy time.
- Wait about 20 minutes after feeding to put your baby on her tummy to prevent spitting up.
- If your baby falls asleep during tummy time, be sure to put her on her back to sleep. Try tummy time again when the baby is well rested.
To encourage tummy time on a firm surface such as the floor:
- Put your baby’s favorite toy within reach and play some favorite music.
- Put a mirror in front of your baby.
- Get down on the floor in front of your baby and sing or talk to her face to face.
Start with five minutes of tummy time three to four times a day and slowly work up to 20 minutes three to four times a day. Your baby may not like being on her tummy at first because babies sleep on their backs, and they are usually more comfortable in that position. However, your baby will need to develop the strength to lift her head and play, so be patient because it may be hard for your baby at first. As your baby gets stronger, tummy time will become more fun.