Tummy time is more than an activity to strengthen head, neck, and shoulder muscles. Tummy time is a vital step in all developmental milestones like rolling over, crawling, and sitting up. In addition to being important for hitting those milestones, tummy time also develops balance and coordination, visual tracking, and their vestibular system.
How much tummy time do babies really need?
The more I talk with parents and see babies in my practice I realize that most babies are not getting nearly enough tummy time. Starting tummy time as soon as baby is born will help make it a habit for both baby and the caregivers. An easy way to start incorporating tummy time is to place baby on his or her tummy after changing each diaper. By one week old you should be doing this for 5 minutes per day and working up to 10 minutes per day by one month old. A few other ways to do tummy time in very young babies are: tummy to tummy, lap soothe, and tummy down carry.
By two months old baby should be holding head up when turned to one side and gaining more head control and neck strength. By two months old, baby should be getting at least 20 minutes per day of tummy time. Be sure that you are turning babies head frequently before they can do it on their own in tummy time. If baby seems uncomfortable when turned to one side or dislikes tummy time when head is turned in one direction that is an indicator that they should be assessed by a pediatric chiropractor.
By three months old, baby has gained much more head control and should be up to 45 minutes per day of tummy time. At this stage baby is becoming more and more interactive and will engage with you more. You can spend time with baby on a blanket and show them toys to encourage visual tracking and them turning their head in different directions. Siblings might find it fun to show the baby toys and keep them happy while they are doing tummy time. This stage is when babies start to enjoy playing on the exercise ball. Keeping the baby engaged and doing tummy time during happy and alert times of the day will help tummy time be easier for everyone.
Tummy time is more important now than ever because of the increased time babies spend on their backs during both sleep and play. Tummy time can be completed in many ways that don’t involve laying your baby alone on a blanket on the ground. If your baby seems uncomfortable in any tummy time position, but is well rested and happy there may be something else going on. Babies who have a subluxation (a misalignment in their spine that puts stress on the nervous system) in the top of their neck are often very uncomfortable during tummy time. It is important to have your child checked by a pediatric chiropractor if you notice discomfort during tummy time, they are favoring one side, or they have a flat spot on their head.