So, your baby hates tummy time. I get it.
My second baby was not a fan. Then again, she wasn’t a fan of much except me feeding her, holding her, and generally not letting me out of her sight. Years later, she is still a mama’s girl (and I love it now), but at the time, having a high-needs baby was exhausting. I didn’t want to mess with any moments of contentment, and since tummy time was one more thing that made her fuss, we didn’t do much of it.
So, why is tummy time important now versus when we were babies? The Back-to-Sleep program, launched in 1994, has significantly reduced the likelihood of SIDS, which is why the safe sleep guidelines are so important to follow. But because babies today are put down on their backs, flat spots develop easier, and core muscle strength can take longer to develop.
Enter tummy time. In addition to helping with head shape and symmetry, practicing supervised tummy time helps babies develop the strength they’ll need for gross motor skills as they begin rolling, crawling, and walking. But what if your baby won’t tolerate it?
For me, it was only in hindsight and learning from a physical therapist that I realized some other small changes I could have made early-on to help strengthen those muscles and offer my baby some tummy time alternatives.
Karen Munger, MSPT, a physical therapist specializing in pediatrics from the Center for Physical Rehabilitation (and also my baby’s physical therapist) suggested laying my daughter on my chest if I’m reclining on the couch so her muscles were still working, but she was happier being near me.
Additionally, alternating how you hold your baby and how you put them down to sleep will help with their head shape. Babies are more likely to face the door where their parents come in, so by alternating their sleeping position, the direction where they are looking for you also changes.
The best time of day to try tummy time is when they are alert, have a clean diaper, and were recently fed. Remember, you can start with just a few minutes at a time, a few times per day. And if your baby moves from hating to tolerating tummy time, consider it a win.