- Dr. Liz Homan
We all know that our babies need to go through the proper developmental process. This includes following objects with their eyes, responding to sound, lifting and gaining control of their head, rolling over and then crawling. Today I want to talk about the importance of one of the earliest activities we should be doing with our child to help them meet their developmental milestones!
This is Tummy Time!
In years past (like when we were growing up 😉), it was not uncommon for babies to be on their stomach the majority of the time, but in 1992 the CDC created the Back to Sleep campaign to decrease occurrence of SIDS. Well, with that, they also launched the Tummy to Play campaign, but they didn’t push it as much. So, it led to most parents keeping their child on their back most of the time. When this was done, the normal pattern for meeting developmental milestones started to shift.
Now, we are understanding the importance of tummy time and I want to share some specific information with you on why it is important, what it means if your child does not like it and recommendations on how to transition your child onto their belly to keep them more comfortable!
Tummy time is important because it allows for the child to develop strength in their body to be able to hold their head and move about. When babies are born, their spine is C-shaped and when they start to do different activities (like holding their head up while on their belly) they develop the curves that the adult spine needs to have to deal with the stress of gravity. Tummy time has been shown to improve the function of the nervous system and also allows them to better deal with future stress.
When a child does not like tummy times it can mean several things. First, it can be a sign of digestive issues because they do not like the pressure on their stomach. It can also be a sign that they have some postural discomfort. This could be that they like their head turned a specific way or they may have torticollis. They could also have a lot of tightness in their shoulder girdle or even in their core muscles that make the position uncomfortable.
After a baby is first born, you want to start tummy time right away, but it will look different then what you may think. For the fist 2-3 weeks you want to do tummy time with baby laying on their mothers’ tummy and allow them to creep up to the breast to nurse or interact with them while laying on a parent’s chest.
After 3+ weeks, you can begin doing floor tummy time. Since we know that most babies do not like tummy time, it is wise to get in them in the tummy position gently. To do this, you want to gently lay the baby on the floor facing up and engage with them a bit and make sure they are in a good mood. After that, gently roll baby onto their belly, being sure to support the spine. If you are not sure how to support your child’s spine while rolling them, please let me know and I can go over it with you.
Once the baby is on their tummy, you want to get down on their level with them and play. If you start to notice that baby is getting a little agitated, it may be a good idea to roll them back to their back and then pick them up and sooth them. Be aware though, that as baby is beginning to use their muscle, they may kick, grunt, or make other noises and that is normal. Since there is so much benefit of baby being on their tummy, we do not want them to have a negative association with it though, so we do not want them crying to the point of exhaustion.
It is suggested that in a day, a child should have at least 30 minutes of active tummy time, but please do not try to accomplish this all-in-one session. You may even need to break up single session by rolling baby in and out of tummy time several times to keep them comfortable. You could also get in the habit of each time that you change their diaper, you do 3-5 minutes of tummy time to help you reach the 30 minutes a day.
For those parents out there that have babies that really do not like tummy time, the good thing is that usually by the age of 4-5 months most babies begin to really enjoy the position as they are able to see, reach and interact with their environment. So please continue to work with them and getting them as much tummy time as possible to help ensure they reach their developmental milestones in order and on time!
So, if you child is one that does not tolerate tummy time well, it may be beneficial to have them evaluated by a pediatric chiropractor who can help with possible postural discomforts and can assist you in learning how to relieve some of their tightness! Please let me know if you have any specific questions about your child or if you need help locating a pediatric chiropractor in your area!