Top 5 Ideas to Help Get your Baby on their Belly!
Make sure your baby is not too tired or hungry when you are working to increase tummy time. Conversely, tummy time right after eating is also not the best time to improve tolerance to this position. Find a time during your daily routine when your baby is generally happy, well rested, and it has been at least 30-45 minutes after a feeding. Your baby may still be resistant to this position at first, but they will have a bit more stamina and less aversion when they starts off happy.
2. Let your baby know you are in this together!
Place your baby on a raised surface such as a sofa or bed facing out and get down on the floor and sit face to face with you baby. Smile, stay cool and calm, and speak to your baby in a happy voice. If you are not anxious about this, they are less likely to be upset. You can also place your baby on your chest while you are reclined so that you are face to face.
3. Keep your head up!
Place a very young baby's elbows close to his body and under his shoulders with arms folded gently underneath. When elbows are supported, a baby will be more likely to lift their head up against gravity and lift their face up in midline. Place your hand on their bottom and gently apply pressure down and back toward their feet. This will take some of the weight off of their head and shoulders and make them feel less pressured. You can also place them on a wedge, Boppy, or rolled blanket under his arms with his head raised to move his center of gravity toward his bottom. Try placing a rolled towel under a sofa cushion to raise it up and you can sit on the floor to get face to face with that fabulous face!
4. Take baby steps!
When the Back To Sleep Program (1994) worked to save lives, it was no longer advisable to place newborns on their tummies to sleep. Babies became more accustomed and comfortable sleeping on their backs and getting tummy time became a new challenge. Start with just a few minutes at each session and increase a little each day. If your baby fusses, try to squeeze a few more minutes out of him by changing the sights and sounds around him. Try a "white noise" AP or lullaby music to stretch tummy time a little longer. Use a timer that ticks and add a minute to it each session. When the bell rings, pick baby up and start fresh another time. Ultimately, 30-60 minutes of tummy time per day is recommended.
5. Be creative!
Place your baby in a reclined stroller on their tummy and go for a walk. Fresh air and the "bumpity bump" of the terrain can help to distract your baby. Place your baby in a football hold with their head in the crook of your elbow and your forearm under their tummy. That counts as tummy time! Try placing your baby on a large exercise ball; gently bounce and move them forward to back and then side to side on the ball to distract them. Many babies love the feel of the rubber ball under them and the rounded surface and gentle movements are less threatening than a flat surface.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, babies continue to be resistant to tummy time. A history of reflux, a slightly misshapen head, muscle asymmetries such as torticollis, and other challenges may require additional problem solving to improve tolerance to being placed on the tummy. Don't give up! This position is critical to developing and achieving motor and cognitive milestones. We can help you figure out how to improve tummy time. Try our free Infant Massage Classes or call for a free screening to see if there is more we can do to promote healthy infant mobility.
Sheri Berk, PT
BDI Playhouse Children's Therapy