• Elena Diehl

Adventures in Tummy Time!

Ahh, your baby’s first year! This is the season of love - cuddling, gazing into each other’s eyes, and learning about your lives together. So much discovery for both you and your baby! Discovering the world around them begins in your arms and also on their own during tummy time.

What is it about tummy time?

This term is tossed about like every parent should know exactly what to do and that it should be easy. Not so fast...We've all heard stories from mom groups about the challenges that come with tummy time. Just hearing the term "tummy time" is enough to give some parents anxiety, and more often than not, produce at least one story about how their baby hated it and screamed through it. How can you confidently attempt tummy time when it has such a bad reputation?

So, where to begin? Where are the instructions on actually “how” to do tummy time effectively and without feeling like we’re being terrible to our sweet, precious babies? And what about making it enjoyable, too? Is this even possible? YES, it IS! After many (many) hours trying to figure it out with my own infant (8 years ago) and working with families and their babies over the past 4 years, I’ve gained a much better understanding of why tummy time is so important and how to do it without guilt or tears (yours or your baby’s). I’m happy to share a bit of what I’ve learned along with some simple and fun (really!) tummy time activities for you and your baby.

Let’s talk about why tummy time is so important for your baby’s healthy development. Back when it was typical, and even recommended, that babies sleep on their bellies (in a prone position), parents weren’t worried about giving their babies enough tummy time. The mysterious internal dance that goes on inside a developing baby’s brain and body could happen during sleep without us even knowing it. So for many hours per day, babies were unconsciously pushing and pressing against gravity; toning their internal organs and receiving sensory input that is essential to building their neural networks and supporting reflex integration.

With the life-saving “Back to Sleep” campaign now known as “Safe to Sleep” it is recommended that babies sleep on their backs (in a supine position). Since babies are spending less time on their bellies, tummy time, when babies are awake, is needed more than in year’s past because your baby is no longer doing this work in their sleep. It is beneficial for your newborn to experience a few minutes of tummy time per day increasing to an hour or more per day by about 3 months. Babies on their tummies build core strength and develop their neck and shoulder muscles, which help babies reach developmental milestones. There are huge benefits beyond motor development too, babies who engage in regular tummy time develop resilience, determination, confidence and sensory integration. Together, all of this lays the foundation for lifelong learning.

So when your well-meaning parents, older family members, and friends don’t understand why you feel so burdened by tummy time because it wasn’t part of their parenting experience, you may start to question and even give up on this important aspect of nurturing your baby’s development. Stay strong, tummy time is worth it! Next, we’ll look at a few tummy time activities that will leave you and baby feeling proud and satisfied!

Having fun (really!) with tummy time activities.

During their first year of life in this big world, your baby begins discovering, well, everything! In the early days, your baby might lay face to face on your chest for short periods to experience tummy time. While lying together this way, use your loving touch to introduce your baby to all their squeezable, kissable parts - from those tiny toes to that round little bottom and all the way up to those sweet cheeks, bright eyes, delicate ears, and perky nose! Gradually, floor time activities will include free time when your baby can move spontaneously and without assistance both on the tummy and back. Side-lying together, observing and reaching for toys, dancing with your baby in your arms, holding your baby in different positions, and doing baby “exercises” while singing familiar nursery rhymes are also fun ways to experience tummy time.

Tummy Time is better together!

Reading about tummy time and play activities for you and your baby may still seem a bit vague. You might not feel the confidence or motivation to try something new today. And you’re not alone! Tummy time really is better when we do it together! Won’t you join me and enjoy the company of other families in a GrowBabyGrow family playgroup? A brand new group is forming in August. Stay tuned for details! And visit https://www.growbabydance.com/ to find out more about GrowBabyGrow special playgroups for families with babies, waddlers, and toddlers and a mixed-age family playgroup for ages 3 month - 3 years.

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