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The Benefits of Tummy Time
Whether your baby hates tummy time or loves it, it’s extremely important to a baby’s continued development. Not only to improve physical strength but to provide sensory stimulation for left and right brain coordination. It improves near point vision and helps to overcome primitive reflexes such as the stepping and startle reflexes.
Since 1994, parents have been encouraged to put babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This sleeping position has seen a huge reduction in SIDS, but parents now seem to fear putting babies on their tummies at all. This lack of tummy time has seen an increase in flattened head shapes and an overuse of baby booster seats.
Tummy Time describes a time dedicated to having the baby lie face forward on the front. As a newborn, this position can be skin-to-skin on your chest or lying flat on your forearm or thighs. Start with small, frequent intervals and by three months expect your baby to have about an hour of tummy time during the day not including tummy time. If you give tummy time in short bursts and often at first, it allows the muscles and ligaments to slowly build up helping your baby become more comfortable as they learn to lie in a front position.
The floor is a good place for the belly. Prepare a suitable area using a stable rubber surface covered with a colorful quilt. This will bring both comfort and visual stimulation. If you have a noisy and clumsy toddler or preschooler at home, put your little one in a playpen for tummy time. When your baby is on his tummy with his knees slightly bent, place your hand on the soles of his feet and feel him press into you, propelling himself forward.
You can rest your baby’s chest on top of a rolled up bunny rug or towel during tummy time to encourage them to stay on their tummy a little longer. You could also try lying down in front of him to entertain him, or place a mirror or some colorful toys near him that will attract his attention and entice him to stay on his tummy longer. Your baby’s head is heavy and difficult to lift when tired. For this reason, try to have tummy time in the first half of waking time rather than near the end when he is tired and getting ready for bed. Forcing your baby to spend time on his tummy when he hates it will only be a negative experience for everyone. Another way to ensure tummy time is to hold him securely in your lap facing the floor and swing and shake him in the air. Move with music for added interest and stimulation.
Front lying allows your baby to see the world from different angles and take different actions. It provides constant opportunity to raise his head and lift his chest – strengthening ligaments, neck and back muscles and forearm development. Tummy time helps drain the tubes between the ears and nose that when blocked cause ear infections. Lifting his head is hard work at first, but with regular repetition it gets easier and your baby will learn to love this position and all the stimulation and development it provides.
As your baby grows and develops, he will begin to coordinate his body to slide forward, backward and around in circles. These are important actions for connecting pathways in the brain. These pathways form the foundation for the development of more advanced coordinated movements such as crawling.
If you’ve encouraged your baby to enjoy tummy time in every way possible, but he still hates it, there could be a number of reasons why you’re making him hard or causing him pain. For this reason it is important to have the child evaluated by a health professional as early as possible. Once treatment is provided and the cause is corrected, your little one will be able to do what he needs to do – spend regular tummy time until he’s up and walking.
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