What is Tummy Time?
Technically speaking, tummy time is not actually a developmental milestone, but rather an important activity that allows your baby to stretch and strengthen his neck, shoulder, arm and body muscles – all muscles that will eventually play a key role in his learning to roll, sit, scoot and crawl. Tummy time is important for your baby’s developing muscles and motor development.
What’s the Backstory?
Both “back sleeping” and “tummy time” are common phrases in today’s parenting vocabulary, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, parents 25 years ago really didn’t need to be told to carve out time for their babies to spend on their tummies because it was the norm – both while awake and while asleep.
Then came Back to Sleep, the public health campaign launched in the mid-1990s to educate parents, caregivers and health care providers about the importance of back sleeping to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The campaign was a success, as a majority of babies were soon sleeping on their backs and SIDS rates plummeted.
Soon, it was the norm for babies to be laid on their backs all the time, rather than just while asleep. This shift not only limited their opportunities to stretch and strengthen their muscles, but also put them at risk for a condition technically referred to as positional plagiocephaly – more commonly recognized as “flat head syndrome” (since more pressure is put on the back of babies’ heads when they are on their backs). Hence, tummy time was born and is now an important activity recommended for newborns and infants.
Tummy Time Tips
Tummy time is something you can introduce to your baby as soon as you head home from the hospital. As for timing during the day, just remember: back while sleeping and tummy while awake. Other than that, there’s no need to mark your calendar or set a timer!
Following are additional parenting tips and tricks to help you take some of the tummy time pressure off both you and your baby.