Tummy Time & Moreby Susan Miller
“But my baby doesn’t like being on his tummy!” This is a common comment heard from new parents. Let’s face it, it’s no fun if your baby fusses and gets cranky every time you put him on his tummy. It’s even more frustrating knowing that baby should be having tummy time, but you can’t seem to find the right time to do this throughout the day.
Tummy time helps baby’s neck, back, chest and arm muscles become stronger, helps him to learn to roll and crawl, and reduces the risk of his head becoming flattened on the back. Now that babies are sleeping on their backs it is even more important that they have frequent opportunities for tummy time while they are awake. Here are a few suggestions for making tummy time more fun and enjoyable for you and your baby.Pick your opportunities
Just like us, babies are more receptive to doing new things when they are rested, relaxed and not hungry. Look for opportunities at different times during the day to do short periods of tummy time and stop tummy time before baby becomes fussy. Gradually build up the length of each session as baby becomes more used to it. As it is normal for baby to spit up after feeding, and some babies spit up a lot, it is best to avoid tummy time right after a feeding. Often babies are more comfortable during tummy time if there is a soft blanket or towel rolled up and placed across their chest just under the arms. This really helps to relieve the feeling of pressure on baby’s tummy. Always make sure your baby is awake during tummy time and choose a time when you can be watching him.Make it fun
Babies love to play, and their parents are their favourite play things. Start tummy time as soon as your baby is born by laying her on your chest looking up at you. As you talk and coo with your baby, she will start to look back at you and will also associate being on her tummy with good times as she feels your warmth and heartbeat. Older babies enjoy looking at something interesting just in front of them such as a mirror (the safe plastic type), a bright stuffed animal, or contrasted red and yellow or black and white images in simple geometric patterns. You can print off up to 20 simple 8 1/2" x 11" black and white images free at the website www.baby.zorger.com
. These images are designed to be placed 8"-10" in front of baby’s eyes. Placing baby on a colourful and interesting blanket is another way to make tummy time more interesting for her.
If baby is having tummy time on the floor, get down there on the floor with him and play simple games to entertain him. Pick your baby up and put him on your chest for a change of view. You can roll slowly back and fourth with baby on your chest in a side to side rocking motion. Baby might also enjoy it when you rub his back, arms and legs. It’s never too early to sing to your baby either, so feel free to entertain baby with a song, finger play or a gentle tickling game.Vary the positions
Babies like variety, so alternate baby’s tummy time activities between having her on the floor, on your chest or across your knee. Any of these positions accomplishes the same thing in exercising baby’s muscles and developing rolling and pre-crawling skills. Some parents have found that their baby enjoys a tummy roll on an exercise ball. Baby can be gently moved forwards and backwards while draped over the ball. In toy stores you can also find fun inflatable rolls that are about the size of a rolled up sleeping bag. Baby can lie over this roll and look at the colourful pictures inside the clear plastic roll. Any surface where baby has tummy time needs to be firm, so soft beds, sofas and waterbeds are not safe.
It will take time for your baby to become used to tummy time so don’t give up. Be patient and make tummy time fun for you and your baby. It will be a delight one day to see your baby happily playing on her tummy without needing you there all the time to entertain her.Preventing a “flat spot”
Now that you and your baby have got the tummy time routine down to a fine science, what about all those other ways baby can be entertained without being flat on his back. Babies today spend a fair number of hours in car seats, baby swings and sling chairs. These items are helpful and convenient and allow parents to have their hands free while still interacting with baby and getting chores done. The problem is that when baby spends a lot of time in a reclined position, she is still resting on the back of her head and may develop a flattened spot there. This flattening is called positional plagiocephaly. In baby’s first year her skull shape can still change so it is important to keep her off of the flat spot as much as possible so that it will not become permanent. Look for ways your baby can be upright without having pressure on the back of her head. Soft slings, front or back packs, bouncers, exersaucers and even jolly jumpers all provide a change of scene and position for your baby. Just carrying your baby more is a good way to avoid positional plagiocephaly.Bumbo Seat update
Bumbo seats are a molded sponge rubber seat that baby can sit in once he has good head control. In the last couple of years Bumbo seats have become quite popular, but the manufacturer has received numerous reports of serious accidents that have occurred with these seats. It is not about the seat, but how it is used. There is now new information on the Bumbo seat website to address safety concerns. These seats should never be placed on any elevated surface, or on a soft surface such as a bed, sofa or cushion, and obviously they are not to be used as a car seat. Bumbo seats are not designed to be a restraint seat and therefore should never be used if baby is unattended. Bumbo seats may look waterproof, but once put in water they quickly soak up the water and become heavy and saturated. They are not safe to be used as a bath seat. Once your baby is old enough to strongly arch his back, he is too old for the Bumbo seat.Susan Miller, R.N. BScN, is a Perinatal Educator and Certified Breastfeeding Counsellor. She teaches, coordinates and develops prenatal, post-natal and early parenting programs in the Greater Victoria area.