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What time is it when babies need to develop motor skills? It’s tummy time! More than an adorable name, tummy time can be crucial for healthy baby development.
What is tummy time?
Tummy time is laying your baby on their stomach for brief periods while they are awake. It also involves bringing attention to things above their head (rattles, toys, your voice) which helps them develop neck muscles. The practice can never begin too early, and is beneficial to babies of all months.
Dr. Jeffery Richker, pediatrician at the SCL Health Medical Group - Lafayette, suggests starting tummy time sooner rather than later. “Earlier is better because they’ll learn to tolerate it as they get older,” said Dr. Richker. “Also, why not promote earlier motor and sensory development?”
How to “tummy time” safely
There are many benefits to placing your infant on their stomach for timed periods. But, as they say, safety first!
Start newborns out with only 2-3 minutes of tummy time, a few times a day. You can lay them on your lap or chest so they can strengthen shoulder and head muscles. As they grow, their motor skills develop and they can do tummy time for longer.
Around 4-7 months old, you can start placing them stomach-side-down for about an hour a day on a floor blanket. Try placing things in front of them to encourage forward movement, along with bringing their attention upwards. Tummy time must only happen under direct supervision. An easy way to remember this is to do it with them!
The benefits of tummy time
We have mentioned that tummy time strengthens motor skills, such as neck and shoulder development. It can also help prevent flat head spots from forming. Because babies sleep on their back, flipping them over for tummy time reduces their head’s exposure to flat surfaces.
When babies reach for toys during tummy time, they build their tactile senses. This movement also aids in their future ability to roll, crawl, and walk. Take advantage of this by waving toys in front of your baby. This bonding experience will have them moving and grooving in no time.
Tummy time is also associated with higher mental and social development. An International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity study suggests that babies who get plenty of tummy time show greater personal-social development over time.
Tummy time troubles?
If you’re having trouble with a fussy baby during tummy time, don’t give up yet. Dr. Richker considers tummy time fussiness a good thing! “Fussy babies are motivated to lift their heads, get hand-eye coordination, and roll over,” he said.