Lauren Weiss (PT, DPT) and Kirsten Miller (OTR/L) share their thoughts on tummy time and its role in promoting healthy gross motor development. Want additional tummy time tips and more? The pair facilitates a weekly workshop – “Play Your Way to Developmental Milestones” – on Friday mornings in our Center City office.
Since the start of the “Back to Sleep Campaign”, many parents and caregivers have shied away from placing their infants/newborns on their tummies. While society has stressed the importance of “Back to Sleep”, we often forget the importance of “Belly to Play. “
Tummy time is important for your baby’s development and is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Tummy time should begin on day one, starting with a few minutes at a time and working up to about 60 minutes a day. Tummy time is important for:
- Gross motor development (rolling, crawling)
- Head, neck, and core strength
- Preventing skull deformities (head flattening)
- Preventing torticollis (neck tightness and weakness)
Tummy Time Positions
Tummy time should occur when your baby is awake and alert, so that he or she can engage muscles, rather than when your baby is sleepy. Tummy time can be done in a variety of positions such as those pictured below:
- Chest to chest (flat or inclined)
- Over your lap
- On the Floor
- Towel under the chestAdapted from: Coulter-O’Berry, C. & Lima, D. (2007). Tummy time tools: Activities to help you position, carry, hold and play with your baby [Pamphlet].
Tummy time can be incorporated into daily routines and activities such as: diaper changes, after bath time, while reading a book and other playtime. You can use toys or a mirror to engage your baby in tummy time play.
More Baby Neck-Strengthening Exercises
There are also many ways to carry your baby that will promote strengthening of head/neck/core muscles:
- Belly down with forearm underneath their chest
- Carry over alternating shoulders
- Carry baby on their side and facing outward over alternating forearms
- Carry baby facing out with arms and feet together in from of their body.Adapted from: Coulter-O’Berry, C. & Lima, D. (2007). Tummy time tools: Activities to help you position, carry, hold and play with your baby [Pamphlet].
Another great playtime position to strengthen your baby’s muscles is the side lying position. This facilitates getting baby’s hands to midline and mouth while giving them a way to self-soothe and find their fingers. It also brings them into a flexed position, which is important since they spend so much time extended on their backs while they are sleeping.
Avoiding inclined positions is also important for the prevention of torticollis and head shape deformities. Car seats, swings, and bouncy seats will all exaggerate any asymmetry or weakness that may be present. The best place to help promote your baby’s gross motor development and head/neck strength is on their tummy! You should talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about tummy time or development of your baby.
Just remember “Back to Sleep” AND “Belly to Play!”
Lauren’s and Kirsten’s weekly workshop – “Play Your Way to Developmental Milestones” – is offered most Friday mornings at 11am in our Center City Philadelphia office. The class targets infants 0 to 3 months of age to promote early, healthy gross motor development. Each week focuses on a different skill to help parents learn to incorporate tummy time into their daily routines and help their babies thrive. For dates on to register on line, visit our website.