Ah, the wonderful tummy time. It seems that everyone, babies included, have a love/hate relationship with tummy time. You know its important so you lay your baby down on their belly and they quickly start to fuss and wiggle. Soon it turns into a full on scream fest. Why would you want to do that 30-40 minutes a day? You're stressed, the baby is stressed so maybe you just avoid it, or you don't do it as much as you're supposed to.
Tummy time is the most important thing you can do for your baby when it comes to developing their spinal curves, building muscle strength, and helping them find vertical alignment. So how can we make tummy time enjoyable and beneficial? I think we just need to understand it a little more, so lets break it down and figure out the best way to do tummy time.
Tummy time does several things, the first is that it prevents the flattening of a babies head. This occurs when a baby spends too much time laying on their back. It's ok for a baby to be on their back, this is how they sleep and they can spend time during the day on their back, but adults need to be aware of how much time is actually being spent there. Luckily, we have seen more and more families turn to baby wearing, which is fantastic! This allows the baby to move around with Mom, feeling her movements and replicating the womb sensations. The baby is off their back and actually having an assisted tummy time. The other thing that tummy time does is it helps develop the spinal curves. When babies come into the physical world they have a "C" curve, tummy time builds the 3 curves needed in the spine (Cervical, Thoracic, and Lumbar). This builds the muscle strength needed to push onto all fours and begin balancing, which then leads to creeping, crawling, standing and walking.
Tummy time is any opportunity when your baby is on their stomach. There are many ways to do tummy time, and they all count towards your 30-40 minutes a day, although I can almost guarantee you are doing more than that without even realizing it. Some surprise tummy time opportunities are burping, holding them upright with their head by your shoulder and doing the "football hold", when their stomach is on your forearms and their head is able to move and look around. The hardest, most advanced version of tummy time is when we place a baby on their stomach, directly on the floor. This proves to be so much work and if the baby isn't strong enough yet, this leads to an almost instant meltdown. My favorite way to do floor tummy time is with an assist. Instead of placing your baby directly on the floor you take a rolled up blanket, boppy pillow or even your leg and place your babies chest across the item you choose. Their two arms will be over the item as well. Here is a visual to get the idea. A few things are happening in this position. 1) In this small lift, the pressure is taken off the entire spine and the baby is able to focus on just the cervical (neck) portion of the spine. This is the first curve to develop after birth, so we are building strength in the natural sequence and not letting your baby become overwhelmed. 2) This puts their feet directly onto the floor. This is important because as your baby gets bigger and stronger you'll notice that their feet start to float, either when they are on their back or on their stomach. This is natural and totally fine, but as I mentioned in a previous post, babies learn mobility by pushing. When the feet are directly on the floor they are able to push against it. The ankle gets stronger and each individual toe gets to push against the floor. You may even see your baby push so hard they go up into plank pose. This is why you always want to keep one hand on your baby because sometimes they push hard enough they end up pushing themselves over the object and onto their head! This is how we practice tummy time in a Move Baby Move class and adults are always surprised at how strong their baby is and the fact that they are actually in tummy time for longer than 10 seconds.
Parents often tell me their baby doesn't like tummy time. It is true that its a lot of work and effort for the baby. Struggling and fussing sometimes go hand in hand when hard work is introduced but, its not a reason to stop doing it. Whatever you do, don't make up your babies mind for them. You baby is smart and picks up everything you say. Babies change and grow constantly, so give your baby a chance to keep trying. Obviously you don't want to push them into a frenzy, but see what their edge is and then stop. Connect in how your baby experiences life, rest on your own tummy opposite from your baby. Model relaxation, full breathing and playfulness, Let your mind calm and tune into the senses that motivate your babies curiosity: sight, smell, touch and sound. Give yourself a chance to renew and restore your hard working "thinking' mind and bond with your baby.
Ansley has been teaching Infant Movement classes since 2013, after studying Developmental Movement with Ellynne Skove. Since completing her training Ansley has taught all over the New York, New Jersey, Boston and now Florida. Ansley is certified in Level 1 Reiki and has completed her 200hr YT. She is passionate about empowering, nurturing and providing care to all families as they encounter the demands and joys of parenthood. Through her work she is able to soulfully fulfil her greatest ambition; to care for others.