The idea of getting babies on their tummy for play is not a new concept to physical and occupational therapists who work with children in infant programs. Yet it seems that , we parents, continue to struggle with increasing the time our children spend on their bellies.
We know that with the encouragement of putting babies on their back to sleep that we have seen an increase in motor delay and other diagnoses such as torticollis. It is important to keep children on their back when they sleep unattended until they are capable of lifting their head up and rolling off of their stomachs on their own. However, belly time is imperative to children’s development in so many areas, more than one would ever think.
The new baby coming home from the hospital needs the experience of getting pressure on her body in all different areas to develop muscle control and stability, sensory receptors for pressure and deep touch, pressure on the skull to assist with head shape and symmetrical development, pressure on the front of her feet to develop foot and lower extremity awareness and control. In addition, when lying on her belly, the new born baby begins to stretch out her little hip muscles and abdominals to start to lengthen and move in her environment which will aid in digestion. Further research is now telling us that when lying on their bellies, babies receive pressure along their face and jaw which enhance their muscles for speech development and feeding.
As parents, it is much easier for us to hold our babies and snuggle them. Tummy time, though should be a good experience for all involved and so here are some simple tips to increase tummy time without increasing the stress in newly busy and sleep deprived homes
- Lie your baby on your chest when you are holding them so they are chest to chest with you. You can rest back and give your baby a more similar experience as to lying on the floor.
- Use a small pillow or nursing pillow to allow a little incline when the baby is lying on the floor, get down next to your baby to provide some entertainment for him or her
- When you change your baby’s diaper, gently roll them over onto their belly and then pick them up. This gives them the experience to be in this position for a short period of time which will build their tolerance to this position and help to continue to develop head control.
These few simple steps will work wonders to positively enhance your child’s overall development and new physical experiences. Not to mention check off another to do list of the new parent!!