If you’re a parent, you know that tummy time is important. It’s good exercise which strengthens neck muscles and builds up core strength. If you’re a baby, you know that tummy time is hard work. It’s not easy for a little baby to lift their head off the floor, which means tummy time is little more than a pancake impression.
I have always been upfront about my dislike of tummy time. In my early days, I used to hate it so much that being on my tummy would induce screams of fury. Now I find it only mildly irritating. Granted, I’m much stronger now and it isn’t as difficult for me any more, but it’s also thanks to the 4 step plan mommy devised to get me where I am today. Maybe it will help your baby too.
1. Don’t like it? Don’t do it!
Everyone is always talking about the importance of tummy time, but nobody tells you about the alternatives. There are other ways to get the benefits without laying face down on the floor. One thing you can do, is to simply hold your baby upright while supporting their head.
The easiest way to do this is by holding the baby close to your body in an upright position. Even tiny babies are capable of lifting their head. They just have poor control over that melon. So make sure your hand is there to support the head, making sure it doesn’t flop around uncontrollably.
Once your little one gains some strength, tummy time will become easier for them. Then you’ll have an easier time trying to convince them that tummy time is not some cruel joke at their expense. It’s a much better strategy when compared to leaving your baby to scream on the floor while they build up further resentment towards tummy time.
2. Take it one step at a time.
Tummy time doesn’t have to happen flat on the ground from the first day. Introduce your little one to the activity in incremental stages. If you search the internet, you will find ample advice from people regarding all sorts of devices you can use to help your baby with tummy time. Pay no attention to any of that just yet. In the early days, you are the best device.
Sit up with your baby’s belly pressed to your chest. This is the same position the two of you would be in for the holding your baby upright exercise. When you feel your baby is ready, try reclining just a little bit to get your baby used to the idea. Within a few weeks you should be flat on your back with your baby doing tummy time on your chest. Look at that! you’re doing tummy time with minimal fussing!
3. Let’s talk about those devices.
When your baby accepts tummy time on top of you, it’s time to move on to the next step. This stage is hard for many babies. Not only is it hard work, but it also requires that you put your baby down and we babies don’t always like that. This is where some of those helpful devices might assist your baby in making the transition.
Some people use pillows or rolled up sheets. Other people put their babies on top of large exercise balls. I prefered my nursing pillow to prop me up in the chest and armpit area. In the beginning, mommy would prop up the pillow even higher so that I was kneeling inside it. Then we gradually began to lower the pillow until it was on the ground and I could reach the floor in front of me with the palms of my hands.
Tummy time goes more smoothly if the hands are placed flat on the ground on either side of the head, instead of splayed out to the sides. If your baby hasn’t figured that out yet, help them out by gently putting their hands in the right position. Keep practicing until the arms no longer sprawl out. Your little one should be using the hands to lift themselves up before you move on to the next step.
4. Time to step up your game.
Once your baby is accepting of the propped up tummy time, and is using the hands to push up the upper body, it’s time to graduate to the true tummy time position. This will mean that your baby will be face down flat on the ground, and will have to work hard to lift up that melon and upper body. This is where many babies give up and it’s up to you to invent some motivation.
You were probably already using distractions to help your baby cope with the first 3 steps. Now is the time to pull out all the stops and take it to the next level. If you expect your baby to work hard, you should be willing to put forth at least the same amount of effort.
Get down low to help your little one see you. Pull out all of the favourite toys. Talk, sing, and make funny faces. Do whatever amuses your baby. As for me, I’ve always been inspired by mommy’s makeup mirror. That has always done it for me. Find what works for your baby and do lots of that.
I hope these steps help your little one become more accepting of tummy time. The first few attempts might not last very long before your baby starts fussing or crying. Try to be encouraging without being demanding and let your baby set the pace. Stop as soon as your baby gets distressed. You can always try again later. Your little one might never love tummy time, and that’s ok. Aim for improvement, not perfection.