We know parenting can be difficult. Placing your child on their tummy should be a fun way to play with your child, but we also know that it can be a workout and will be challenging. This blog will highlight tips and tricks to help you and your child be successful with achieving tummy time recommendations.
First, let’s talk a little about the history of this recommendation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended safe sleep principles in order to decrease the risk of sleep related infant deaths. The Safe to Sleep campaign, previously the Back to Sleep campaign, started in 1994. If you were born before 1994, your parents may have not heard of this before (I know, I know, as a parent I hear “We never did that when you were little and you turned out fine” alllll the time! That is the cool thing about research. We find out new ways to keep our kids safer. In fact, in 2006, a 35% decrease in SIDS related deaths were noted after starting this campaign.
While the research supports back to sleep, there is less opportunity for our infants to be placed on their tummies. Don’t get me wrong, playing on your back is important, but we want to include tummy time in our repertoire of positions. Tummy time has many benefits including:
- Strengthening the neck, arms, shoulders and back
- Allowing your child to see the environment in a different way
- Stretching the muscles on the front side of the hip
- Tummy time is a precursor for other gross motor skills including rolling and crawling
- Reducing time spent on the back of their head to prevent flat spots
What happens if your child doesn’t tolerate tummy time? Try a couple of the ideas below but remember this is educational only and does not replace medical advice. Some kids need an extra boost or may even have some muscle imbalances that make this even more challenging. If you notice this, reach out to your local PT for a comprehensive evaluation.
Tummy time should always be supervised. Start small and slowly build the duration your child can tolerate. Place your child’s elbows under or just in front of their shoulders to allow them to use their arms to help.
- Over an Object. Pictured below is a Boppy nursing pillow. You can achieve the same result over your leg or with a rolled-up towel. This modifies tummy time by taking away the impact of gravity.
2. Your chest. This works best while you are semi reclined. You can change the angle to make this easier or harder for your child. More upright will be easier while more reclined increases the challenge.
3. Yoga Ball: You can roll the ball backwards to make this easier and forwards to make it a little harder. Gentle bouncing can make this fun for your child and even help calm them down if they are upset.
After you have successfully changed the position of tummy time, do not underestimate the power of a good toy. Our younger infants see contrast toys the best. Try using black, white, and red cards. A water mat can provide a different sensory stimulation. Mirrors are even great motivators at this stage. Last, make this a family affair. Lie down in front of your child face to face and try singing songs or reading a book.
- Moon, R. Y. (2018). SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Evidence base for 2016 updated recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics (2016) 138 (5): e20162940https://doi.org/10.1542/9781610021494-part05-sids_and_other_sleep2
- NIH. Campaign History <afetosleep.nichd.nih.gov/campaign/history> (Accessed August 29, 2023)
- Wittmeier K., Mulder K. Time to revisit tummy time: A commentary on plagiocephaly and development. Paediatr. Child Health. 2017;22:159–161. doi: 10.1093/pch/pxx046.
- Pathways.org https://pathways.org/topics-of-development/tummy-time/