Tummy Time: Your Baby’s Workout Regimen

As a new parent, you often feel as if all you are able to provide your newborn with is food and comfort… and more food. There seems to be no interaction beyond the bouncing, rocking, cradling, and endless feedings. But believe it or not, there are many ways you can interact with your little one as early as a few days old. Tummy time is an excellent way to play with your baby, while also helping him develop mentally and physically… and the earlier you start, the better!

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The term “tummy time” is a result of the Back to Sleep program started in 1992 when many babies were dying of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).While the program reduced the occurrence of SIDS by 40%, it overshadowed the importance of tummy time and its benefits to a baby’s development of “motor control and planning, sensory integration, environmental awareness, and postural strength” (Cranial Technologies).

Giving babies tummy time helps reduce the chances of cranial asymmetry (which can lead to problems in brain development as well as Torticollis), but also helps strengthen a baby’s neck, shoulders, arms, and body. Some skills that tummy time helps to develop are:

  • Crawling and scooting which leads to walking
  • Balance and Coordination (which helps them in play and exploring their environment).
  • Eye-hand coordination (writing, visual/motor skills, scissor skills)
  • Calming (Allows children to concentrate on tasks they are asked to do in school work, like listening to a teacher at the front of the class).
  • Confidence and Independence


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The key is to start slow, at your baby’s pace, when he or she is wide awake (not before a feeding or late at night). You can place a newborn on his or her belly for 1- to 2-minute intervals for about 4 or 5 times a day. Experts say the goal is to have babies eventually doing tummy time for 10 minutes a day, 4 to 5 times a day. By 4 months of age, babies can be on their bellies for up to 90 minutes a day!

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Don’t sweat it if you don’t meet your daily quota, though — simply holding your baby upright against your chest works those head and neck muscles too.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 7.24.41 PMIf your baby gets upset, simply pick him/her up and try again later. Don’t give up! There is no generalizing with a baby — something they hate one day becomes their favorite game the next. Try switching it up: boppy pillow, on your chest, on your lap, on the play gym. One of them is bound to work!

Milestones (courtesy of mamaot.com) :

⇒Lays on tummy, lifts face off surface 1-2 seconds: 0-2 months
⇒Holds head up with chin 2-3 inches above surface: 0-2.5 months
⇒Holds head up and turns it to both sides with no head bobbing: 2-3 months
⇒Pushes top of chest off floor while bearing weight on forearms: 2-4 months
⇒Holds head completely upright (90 degrees) a few seconds: 3-5 months
⇒Pushes chest off floor while bearing weight in both hands: 4-6 months
⇒Pushes chest up, reaches out with one hand: 6-7.5 months

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 7.24.47 PM Helpful tip: Give your baby plenty of toys to look at (a mirror works great!) and don’t hesitate to use a Boppy pillow for some extra help (Liam loves the change when he gets sick of being at ground level.) The more you do it, the more your baby will enjoy it… and he might roll over quicker than expected! For Liam, it happened at 11 weeks 🙂 and now he can’t stop rolling!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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