Tummy Time Tips That Help

Having a new baby at home is a life changing and momentous experience! Whether it is your first time or not, your experience will be unique, because every baby is different, just as every parent is unique and exceptional. Working in pediatric occupational therapy, with a specialty in the birth-to-age-three Early Intervention population for nearly 20 years, I have had countless opportunities to learn along with new and experienced parents, the how, when and why of “tummy time”. There is a lot of advice to be heard out there, as we all know, and people want to share their experiences. All that advice can be conflicting and overwhelming for new parents and care-givers. Yes, tummy time is important for many reasons, and if the baby likes tummy time that’s great! But what if tummy time is uncomfortable or even “unbearable” for your baby? Here are a few tips that can help you along the way: 

  • If your baby can lift and turn his head on his own, when on his tummy, he is developmentally ready to start tummy time on the floor or other firm surface.
  • If baby is not yet lifting and turning his head independently, try holding him facing you, on your chest as you recline at a comfortable 45 degree angle.  Be sure to switch sides so that each of the baby’s cheeks has contact for equal amounts of time. (Do this when you are both awake for safety sake!)
  • If  baby frequently cries or fusses on his tummy, listen. He is telling you something is wrong.
  • Crying in tummy time can be a sign of GERD and should be evaluated by a medical professional.
    • Use of a rolled up blanket or Boppy Pillow can be helpful and make baby feel more secure. It can also assist gravity, if GERD might be an issue. 
  • Crying in tummy time can signal sensory sensitivity to position and movement, also known as gravitational insecurity.  Try slowly rolling your baby from back to front rather than placing them directly on their tummy. 

More questions about tummy time? Click here for a free tip sheet from AOTA, or get in touch with a pediatric OT.  It is natural to want to avoid doing what makes your baby upset, but your baby does not necessarily have to miss out on this important developmental milestone.  More help is available. It is never too early or too late to reach out if your child is not loving tummy time or is not reaching expected developmental milestones. 

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