Safe to Sleep is always important (always place Baby on his back for sleeping!), but are you as diligent about tummy time for your little one?
“It’s all about balance,” says neonatal/pediatric occupational therapist Michelle Emanuel. She’s spent a career helping babies with issues like head flattening (plagiocephaly), posture problems, and asymmetries (torticollis).
“We spend a lot of time on our backs, sleeping, lying in a car seat,” she explains, adding that babies need to offset all that back time.
Emanuel’s Tummy Time!™ Method focuses on newborns to pre-crawling infants and suggests anywhere from 30 minutes a day to up to two hours, depending on age.
Emmanuel says tummy time should not be thought of as an “extra,” but as a necessity.
“It is necessary for neurodevelopment; our brains need it,” Emmanuel says.
When Baby spends purposeful time on his belly, he gains better head control, posture, reflexes and motor development.
Think of it this way, Emanuel says: Your baby has spent nine months folded in half in the womb, and now he needs the first few months to unfold and extend his growing body and learn to use his neck, shoulder and arm muscles. Putting him in new positions can help with that.
Tummy time has also been shown to help improve digestion and decrease reflux, a big concern for plenty of new parents. And it’s a great way to bond with your baby, since you’re on the floor with him, giving him all your attention.
WHAT IF BABY DOESN’T LIKE IT?
Sometimes tummy time takes practice before Baby starts to like it. Don’t give up fast if there’s a fuss, but ease into it a few minutes at a time.
“Babies should be able to get comfy in all positions,” says Emanuel. “Some babies don’t like being on their tummies because of reflux, or posture issues and asymmetries can make it challenging.”
So if your baby continues to resist tummy time, bring it up with your pediatrician for advice.
Emanuel’s method was developed for babies who don’t like being on their tummies, and suggests that parents ease into it by starting on the back and rolling Baby over, or use a pillow or leg to modify his position. Infant massage is another technique to help Baby adjust to his position. And keep at it!
“It takes time, repetition and consistency to get babies used to it,” says Emanuel.
TUMMY TIME PRIMER
HEAD TO TUMMYTIMEMETHOD.COM FOR A CLOSER LOOK AT EMANUEL’S TUMMY TIME METHOD AND A LIST OF CLASSES AVAILABLE LOCALLY.