Tummy time is exactly what it sounds like: short periods when your baby is awake during the day that she spends on her tummy on a secure surface, typically the floor or your chest. It’s a simple activity that results in a bevy of benefits. By spending time on her belly, she’ll strengthen her neck, shoulder and arm muscles, learn to use her muscles to move, avoid getting flat spots on her head, expand her sensory horizons, gain flexibility, and increase her bond with you.
How can you and your baby nail tummy time? Use these tips to get started, and before you know it, you’ll both be pros:
- Pick your moments carefully. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends starting out with two to three daily tummy time sessions of three to five minutes each. You can increase the number and duration of sessions over time. The moments after nap times and diaper changes are ideal for tummy time, according to the AAP.
- Lay the groundwork. Spread a blanket on the floor and secure its edges, then place your baby gently in the middle on his tummy. If he’s fussy at first, place a rolled-up towel under his chest with his arms and chin in front of it; this will prop him up a bit. You can also place him on his side with a rolled-up towel or blanket for support, as long as you keep his arms in front of him and bend his hips and knees for comfort. You may wish to have tummy time on your chest or lap for a few days before allowing your baby to graduate to the floor.
- Get up close and personal. Tummy time is best done in tandem! Lie down in front of your baby to interact with her and motivate her to raise her head to look at you.
- Bring the fun to your baby. Place toys in a circle within his reach or a mirror in front of him to encourage him to move and engage his curiosity. Move your hands and face expressively, sing or read to him.
- Mix things up. Variety is the spice of life, right? For your baby, change is both enjoyable and developmentally helpful. Vary your tummy time locations, surfaces (use blankets of different textures, for example), toys and activities for extra stimulation.
As the weeks and months pass, you’ll notice the benefits of tummy time in nearly every one of your baby’s movement milestones, including belly sliding, crawling, rolling over, sitting up and—hold back those tears—his first steps. Enjoy the journey, and never miss an opportunity to make a tummy-time memory!