While your baby should always sleep on her back for safety, she also needs “tummy time” daily, beginning at birth. Initially, laying your little one on her tummy helps to strengthen her motor skills that include raising her head, rolling over, and eventually sitting up. But that’s not all. Tummy time will benefit your little one’s brain development as well. She will see her world from a different perspective, helping her to become more aware of her surroundings.
How long should tummy time last?
Pediatric recommendations range from two to three times per day at 3-5 minutes per session. By the time your little one is 3 to 4 months old, she should be getting 20-30 minutes of tummy time every day. Studies have shown that infants who get this amount of tummy time are quicker to reach milestones in the first years of life.
At first, your little one will probably cry during tummy time because it will feel foreign. Start slow, letting your baby lay on her tummy for a few minutes at a time, building up for longer periods.
Tips for making tummy time fun!
1. Lounging on your chest/tummy.
Your newborn will want nothing more than to be held and cuddled. Try lounging back on the couch and letting your little one have tummy time on your torso and chest. Since your newborn can’t see very far from her face, this is the perfect introduction to tummy time.
2. Laying on the bed (with your supervision).
As you transition to tummy time on her own, try laying her on her tummy up high—like on your bed—where you can sit and interact with her. Since she can’t lift her head very far yet, this will help her be able to see more of her surroundings than she would on the floor. Of course if you do this, it is very important that you stay right beside her so she doesn’t wiggle off of the bed.
3. On a play mat.
Once you’re ready to lay your little one on the floor for tummy time, try using a play mat with bright colors and toys to help peak her interest. If she is distracted and entertained, she will be less likely to fuss because she wants to be held or is uncomfortable. Remember that the idea of tummy time is to challenge her muscles and help her to gain independence.
4. Supported by a pillow.
Until she is able to hold her head up on her own, you may try propping her up on a pillow so that she can see more of what’s around her. A pillow will also help cushion her so that she is more comfortable than laying flat on a hard floor. However, keep in mind that sleep safety recommendations include removing fluffy pillows from the crib, so stay with your little one while she is laying on the pillow.
Remember, your little one is picking up on all of your cues and looking to you for encouragement. By interacting and staying positive even if she gets fussy, you are showing her that everything is okay.