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What time is it? It's Tummy Time!

In 1994, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came together to create the Back To Sleep Campaign. Their goal was to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), by teaching parents and caregivers to place babies in their crib on their back for all sleep. In 2012, the campaign changed its name to Safe to Sleep®.

Prior to the introduction of this campaign, most babies slept on their stomach which drastically increased the risk of SIDS. SIDS is not completely preventable, but we can take significant measures to reduce the risk to the best of our ability. Check out this post about the ABC's of Safe Sleep to learn more!

While research showed that 'SIDS rates in the United States have decreased by almost 50%, both overall and within various racial/ethnic groups' since the campaign began (Explore The Campaign), medical professionals also saw the increase in flat spots on baby's heads due to being on their back more often. The number one priority for your baby is their safety. Reducing the risk of SIDS is crucial and a top priority compared to potential flat head spots. However, we do want to try to limit the amount of time a baby lays on its back while awake to help reduce or prevent flat head spots. One way to do so is tummy time!

Tummy time is the time your baby spends on their stomach while awake and supervised. While tummy time does help take pressure off the baby's head, it also has many more benefits!

Here are the top 5 benefits for Tummy Time:

  • Aids in development

  • Improves hand eye coordination

  • Helps with speech

  • Assists with feeding skills

  • Helps with reflux

Now let's break them down!

Aids in development:

While tummy time has many benefits, one of the most important benefits is the strengthening of the head, neck, shoulder, chest, trunk, back, throat, and mouth muscles.

Tummy time is mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially stimulating. As long as your baby is not overstimulated, this kind of stimulation is hard work at such a young age. When we stimulate the brain in a positive way, this leads to learning and development!

When your baby participates in tummy time, they are actively learning how to move their body which leads to rolling, sitting, and crawling in the future.

While in the womb, babies are all curled up causing the muscles to be and stay shortened. After birth, babies need to stretch out these neck muscles that were shortened in the womb, and tummy time is the perfect activity for this!

Babies are able to observe and learn their surroundings while on their tummy on the floor. Since your little one is so new to this world, they are constantly taking in every detail possible. Even though your baby's eye sight hasn't fully developed, they best see black and white contrast and learn through their five senses during tummy time. Providing more opportunity for your little one to learn in a safe and nurturing environment leads to development.

Tummy time can be a social event! You can use mirrors or get down on their level. When you make eye contact with your baby at the same level, they are encouraged to lift their head up to see you better.

As previously stated, tummy time provides more opportunity for the back of your baby's head to develop correctly. This is why the AAP strongly recommends tummy time for your baby in the early months of life, in conjunction with safe sleep practices. The AAP did find an increase of flat spots on babies heads when they introduced the Back to Sleep Campaign.

Improves hand eye coordination

Around 5-6 months babies begin to move their hands and arms to reach out. When there are objects in front of them, they will be inclined to reach towards them. By looking at the object and practicing to move and control their arms/hands, your baby is also improving their hand eye coordination!

Helps with speech

As we know, your baby's neck, mouth, throat, and esophagus are being strengthened during tummy time as your baby is learning how to pick their head up and move it around. The stronger these muscles are, the more the muscles are able to help develop speech and language development as these muscles are needed to talk.

Assists with feeding skills

Ok, I think you are seeing a strong pattern between tummy time and how it strengthens vital muscles. When the neck muscles are strengthened, these muscles help support proper sucking during feeds. The stronger the muscles needed for sucking and swallowing are, the stronger the latch!

Helps with reflux:

The esophageal sphincter connects the esophagus to the stomach. When the esophageal sphincter is weak or not fully developed, it's not able to keep the food down as well after the food has been digested. When this flap is not strong enough to stay closed, the food comes back up from the stomach. Hence where reflux comes into play. Babies with reflux tend to have a weaker esophageal sphincter and can't keep the food down as well. Tummy time strengthens the esophagus and esophageal sphincter!

When, Where, How:

Tummy time can be done right after birth! At such an early time in a baby's life, tummy time looks more like placing your baby on their belly, on your chest. YES! This still counts as tummy time because your baby will be working on lifting or moving their head and neck to look up at you. These are the very beginning stages of tummy time!

  • Offer tummy time multiple times a day for anywhere from 5-20 minutes IF they are happily enjoying it

  • During the first few months, most tummy time is on the parent or caregiver's chest with some short burst (1-2 minutes) of floor tummy time

  • By 4 months, tummy time should be mostly on the floor

  • Tummy time should always be done while your baby is awake and supervised

  • Try different variations of tummy time- laying on your back on the ground with your baby facing you counts!

Want to learn more about helping your baby to enjoy tummy time? If you're local to the Cincinnati and NKY area, check out my Baby Bellies classes at Nurture in Hyde Park!

Not local? I got you covered!

Join the pre-sale for my Tummy Time Virtual Crash Course here! This will be a one time crash course where you and your little one will learn how to enjoy tummy time together, by feeling empowered with the knowledge of play so that you are confident your baby is learning and developing.

Reserve your spot in the pre-sale today for $29!

Hi I’m Anna, a pediatric gymnastics instructor, pediatric sleep consultant, owner of Happy Little Ones, and mom of 3 - here to empower you and your Little One to start enjoying tummy time!

Is your little one struggling with nighttime and/or naps, and you're dreaming of getting even a few hours of sleep?

In as little as 1-3 weeks, your family can achieve more enjoyable and less stressful bedtimes, longer stretches of nighttime sleep with less night wakings, improved naps, and you have a happy little one upon waking!

Here's where to start!

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