This is a guest post by Dr. Brita DeStefano PT, DPT, PCS, a Denver based pediatric physical therapist. Through her concierge mobile practice, Progress Through Play, she provides both in-home and virtual services for children ages birth to 5 years old. She is passionate about prevention and developmental wellness which includes demystifying development and educating families on their child’s milestones. Through 10 years of experience as an expert pediatric PT and mom of two, she has learned first hand that simplifying the process and making it fun will eliminate confusion and foster connection so that parents can keep their kids on track through early childhood and beyond.
You just left your pediatricians office and have been “prescribed” tummy time for your newborn. Along with making sure they’re fed, and healthy and thriving you’ve been given yet another task to be checked off the daily list. So how the heck does an overwhelmed and exhausted new mom fit yet another thing into her day? And what do you do if your baby doesn’t cooperate? As a pediatric physical therapist and self-proclaimed Milestone Magician, I’m here to share some of my tips & tricks with you.
Do you want to know the secret to a peaceful and productive tummy time for both you and baby? Here it is, the list of 10 Tips for a Tranquil Tummy Time.
Tip #1: Start Early
Many moms don’t realize that babies can start tummy time on day 1! In fact, when a baby is born and placed skin to skin on their mothers’ chest, they can actually crawl to reach the breast. This is the very beginning of tummy time and you can continue putting baby down on their belly either on the floor or on your chest from then on. Starting tummy time during the first few days of life won’t guarantee that your little one will love it, but it increases their chances of being successful later on.
Tip #2: Be Intentional
Find a specific time during the day that works best for you, such as after every diaper change or during each wake window. By building it into your daily schedule, it will seem less like a chore and more a natural part of your routine.
Tip #3: Try various positions
Change it up! Try it on your chest, the changing table or the floor. You can even carry your baby with their belly down on your arm or try it over your legs while you’re sitting on the floor. Exercise balls can be a good place for baby to try tummy time – you can bounce or rock baby to calm them in this position. Variety helps baby to learn to adapt to new positions!
Tip #4: Use a mirror
Young infants can see best at about 8-10 inches from them, and faces are very enticing for them to look at, so set up a small mirror on the floor for baby. First try to place it off to the side, or underneath baby then as they are able to lift their head more you can prop it in front of them.
Tip #5: Roll baby into and out of tummy time
It’s important not to just plop your baby onto their tummy. Instead, get them into the position in a more natural way. Start with them lying on their back on the floor and slowly roll them onto their belly. When they become fussy, roll them back out. Make sure to do this to both sides and you can even stop while baby is side-lying and let them experience this great position as well.
Tip #6: Don’t push it
The benefits of tummy time become lost if your baby is resisting or upset. So, don’t push it. Work with your baby and not against them and allow for as many breaks as your baby needs. Some days they may get more than others, and that’s ok!
Tip #7: Get down on their level
If your baby gets fussy with tummy time, try getting down on the floor with them. Lie next to them on your belly and try reading a book or singing songs. You can even have a sibling keep your infant company during this time.
Tip #8: Add sensory fun
Some babies require more stimulation during tummy time. You can try introducing a tummy time water mat, a muffin tin filled with small rattles or balls, or a sensory touch and feel book to keep baby’s attention.
Tip #9: Learn what tummy time looks like at each age
Tummy time doesn’t look the same at age 2 months and 6 months. Learn what to look for and expect at each stage of your baby’s development. Learn more here.
Tip #10: Quality over Quantity
There is no set time limit that you need to reach daily. I tell parents that I’m always looking for quality over quantity. So don’t watch the clock, watch your baby! Observe how they are acting when on their belly and when they might be ready for a break.
Just remember, no two babies are the same, so it’s best to be prepared with a toolbox full of ideas to try to help your little one to be successful.
For more tips and tricks for your tummy time toolbox, follow Progress Through Play on Instagram or join the Progress Through Play Parent Support Facebook group. If you'd like to make a virtual appointment with Dr. Brita DeStefano, use code FIRST10 for 10% off your first appointment.