7 Dos & Don'ts for Tummy Time With Baby

baby on tummy
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Since the "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1994 (a push to get infants to sleep on their backs to prevent SIDS), tummy time has made its way into moms' vocabularies. Originally, doctors recommend "tummy time" (placing baby on his belly when he's awake) to help prevent cranial asymmetry, or as it's more commonly referred to as: a flat head. But even though that turned out to be a non-issue (babies' soft heads often round out by six months), some experts continued to recommend tummy time because it can help strengthen baby's neck, shoulders, arms, and body; it helps baby learn to roll, sit, and crawl; and some babies just enjoy being on their bellies.

It's not rocket science, but like all things pertaining to your baby, there are some key things to keep in mind when giving your baby some tummy time.

Here are 7 dos and don'ts of tummy time:

DO start off slow with tummy time. You can start having your little one practice tummy time right away, but it may not be a bad idea to wait until her umbilical stump falls off. Initially, you can place your baby on her belly for 1- to 2-minute intervals for about 4 or 5 times a day and gradually increase as you see fit. Some experts say the goal is to have babies eventually doing tummy time for 10 minutes a day, 4 to 5 times a day; and that by 4 months of age, she can be on her tummy 90 minutes a day.

DON'T stress out if you don't make your daily quota. Traditional recommendations aside, it's important not to stress yourself out if your baby isn't meeting her daily tummy time quota. It's helpful but isn't the determining factor to whether or not she's going to be an Olympic gymnast. "Remember, originally tummy time had nothing to do with development," notes Jane Morton, MD, an adjunct clinical professor of pediatrics at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford and the Stanford University School of Medicine. "If your baby doesn't like tummy time, her neck will still strengthen from merely holding her upright."

DO try placing a towel under their armpits. Some parents find that rolling up a small towel or placing a nursing pillow underneath baby's armpits and forearms makes a difference with babies who aren't sure about tummy time. Not only does it give baby a new vantage point, it makes it a little easier for him to lift his head and to push up. "The big thing is to try different things and see what makes them happy," notes. Dr. Morton. "Babies are very good at telling you what they like."

DON'T attempt tummy time at night when it’s time to sleep or when he's hungry. In case you haven't noticed, babies aren't super cooperative when they're tired or hungry, so try to time tummy time when your little one is alert and well-rested. However, don't place your baby face-down with a full belly. You should wait at least 45 minutes after a feeding to avoid spit-ups.

DO try tummy time with your baby on your chest. Another variation of tummy time, particularly for babies who don't seem keen on it, is to have baby lay on your chest. Simply lie back and place your baby on top of you. She'll likely love being so close to her favorite person's face.

DON'T give up if your baby doesn't seem to like tummy time. Babies are the ultimate chameleons. What they hate one day, they might like the next, so don't throw in the tummy time towel altogether if your infant doesn't take to it right away. That said, give it time and follow your baby's cues. If she cries when you place her down, pick her up and try again another time.

DO give your baby something to look at during tummy time. Everything is more intriguing when there's something shiny and colorful in front of you. Give your baby something fun to look at -- a toy, a stuffed animal, your face! -- when he's on his belly and he's more apt to be into tummy time.

baby development