CONGRATULATIONS! You made it through pregnancy, labour and birth (maybe barely!) and have been rewarded with a beautiful baby…a baby who is depending on you to give them a good head start in life. No pressure! Here is one relatively simple thing you can do to encourage your baby’s development and prevent the dreaded “flat head”: TUMMY TIME! That’s it.
Why is this more important than ever? It has been 20 years since the Government of Canada has been recommending that infants be placed on their backs to sleep to reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Since then, there has been a reduction in SIDS related deaths by close to 50%. Fabulous news! But with our lifestyles busier than ever, babes are also spending more and more time in “containers” like car seats, bouncers and swings as we try to cram too much into a day. What has happened as a result is that many babies are now spending more time on their backs and not enough time on their tummies.
Why is spending time on the tummy so important anyway? Here are a few reasons:
- Practise, practise, practise! Babies develop strength and earlier control of their back, head/neck, arm and shoulder muscles in preparation for rolling, sitting, crawling and pulling to stand.
- Prevention of early motor delays
- Prevention of flat areas on the back of the head (“plagiocephaly”)
When should you start tummy time?
- As soon as you come home from the hospital…the earlier the better so your baby gets used to the position and starts to reap the benefits
How long should your baby spend on her tummy?
- Your baby will tell you when she is finished with tummy time. Start with a few minutes and gradually increase the amount of time she spends on her tummy. Try to work up to 1 hour total each day broken into short increments.
How can you motivate your baby stay on his tummy if he doesn’t seem to like it?
- Do tummy time when baby is in a good mood and his needs have been met (fed, burped, clean diaper, not too tired).
- Get down on the floor face to face with your baby. Sing, talk, smile, make faces… whatever works!
- Place toys or a mirror in front of him to encourage him to look up and move his head side to side
- Place a towel under his arms and chest to provide more support in the early days
- Lay down on your back and place your baby on your chest and encourage him to look at you. Hold him firmly and support his arms if he needs it.
- Try placing him on his tummy for a few minutes after each diaper change
- Carry your baby tummy down by placing your arm under his belly and between the legs, snuggling him close to your body
- Place your baby over your lap to burp or soothe him
Don’t forget that this is hard work for your little one and she may not hesitate to tell you so!
- Be sure to pick her up or change the position if she is fussing too much and try again later.
- For safety’s sake, always supervise tummy time.
Concerned about your baby’s development?
- If you have concerns that, despite doing plenty of tummy time, your baby is not meeting her developmental milestones consult with your family doctor or paediatrician. A referral can be made to Halton Region’s Infant and Child Developmental Services for an evaluation by an Occupational Therapist or Developmental Consultant.
For more tips and hints about your baby’s development, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call HaltonParents by dialing 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
About this guest blogger:
Tanya Halliwell is an Occupational Therapist with Halton Region’s Infant and Child Development Services who works with families of infants and toddlers in the community. She has been working with babies and children in a variety of settings for over 20 years. She is the very proud mom of 2 teenaged girls who continue to keep her busy.