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The Importance of Tummy Time: Here's Everything You Need to Know

From the moment they exit the womb, babies are on a fast track of growth, and you want to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. But there’s a lot of information you need to absorb about their rapid development, and that information can be confusing as you try to sort out the difference between instructions like “back to sleep” and “tummy time.” 

At Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy, Danielle McDaniel, MOT, OTR/L, and our team are here to help. We offer a wide range of services that are designed to help children (and their parents) navigate the tricky waters of childhood development, including the all-important newborn stage.

To help you better understand tummy time, we’ve pulled together the following information on the practice and why it’s important.

Tummy time basics

Tummy time, as the name implies, refers to time that your baby spends on their tummies. In the last decade, parents have been inundated with messaging about the importance of having babies sleep on their backs in order to avoid sudden infant death syndrome. So to then be told that tummy time is important may be confusing.

To untangle the messaging, when we talk about tummy time, we’re referring to placing your child on their belly during playtime, when they’re wide awake and alert. In doing this, you encourage your child to develop neck muscles that enable them to lift their head. This, ultimately, sets the stage for sitting up, crawling, and all too soon, walking.

Starting tummy time

You can start tummy time as soon as you get home by devoting a few minutes each day to the practice. The best time for tummy time is after your child wakes up or after a diaper change, ensuring you have their full attention. Ideally, your baby should spend at least 15 minutes on their tummy every day, which you can break up into several 3-5-minute sessions throughout the day.

Tummy time isn’t terribly complicated — you simply clear a space on the floor, put down a blanket and some toys and place your baby on their belly. Tummy time can also be complete lying on mom or dad’s chest to encourage neck muscle strengthening and positive social engagement.  Some babies may object at first, while others take to the new position readily and begin to explore.

As your baby gets used to tummy time, you can increase the amount of time they spend in this position in order to encourage good muscle control in their necks. This muscle development is extremely important and allows your child to really use their heads to engage in the world around them. Eventually, this muscle control will aid in sitting up, crawling, and walking.

When tummy time doesn’t work

We can help if your baby steadfastly doesn’t tolerate tummy time and begins to display any of the following symptoms:

We offer baby therapy services, through skilled occupational therapy services, that encourage age-appropriate development. During these sessions, we help your child with their motor skills through movement, stretching, and sensory exploration.

If you have more questions about tummy time or you suspect your child may not be developing properly, please contact our office in Charlotte, North Carolina, at 704-912-1011 to set up a consultation.

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