Circle of Moms member Kelly A., who is a first time mom, says that it feels like everyone, from her baby's pediatrician to her friends, is talking about the importance of "tummy time." While she knows she's supposed to have her infant spend time on his tummy, he gets fussy and she's not sure what to do, so she always winds up putting him back on this back. "My son doesn't seem to like it too much. He will last for about five minutes and then start crying. Anyone have any tricks that they use with their little ones?"
Like Kelly, many Circle of Moms members struggle with following the doctor's orders to do a little tummy time with their babies each day. Their little ones resist and complain, and they feel like they're forcing them to undergo some kind of torture.
"Tummy time for my now 13-month-old was a nightmare," says Christina W. "I started him out when he was two weeks old and I would end up crying myself." And Jessi M. reports that she also had difficulty: "My son, who is now seven months, HATED tummy time. It was hard for me as a mom to watch my tiny infant cry and struggle to get off his belly." She adds that she dreaded going to the pediatrician to report on her failure to enforce tummy time.
But you won't get your child's pediatrician off your back until you get your baby off of hers. Doctors are urging parents to put their babies onto their tummies for 15 minutes a day to counteract the effects of keeping sleeping babies on their backs as a safeguard against SIDs (see Back to Sleep). All that time spent lying supine can distort the shape of a baby's head, leave her with weak neck muscles, and delay crawling and other developmental milestones. So just how do you get your baby to spend time on her tummy? as Circle of Moms member Sierra H. asks.
1. Ease Into Each Tummy Time Session
Jess M. says "My pediatrician told me to start off at five minutes of tummy time before each feeding during the day. That way you get plenty of tummy time even if it is a short amount of time. Then gradually increase the time he's on his belly. Until they can lift their heads up and move a little better they get flustered with the tummy time. My son now can't stay off his belly, he loves it! I lay him on his back and he rolls right to his belly."
Other techniques for a gradual start include holding your baby on your chest when you're reclined or lying flat on your back, as Danica F. suggests. "That way they can gaze lovingly into your face. It's also something baby and daddy can do for some bonding time."
The trick to successful tummy time is making it fun, advise many Circle of Moms members. Try using an exercise ball or pillow and spread out her toys in front of her to make it more interesting for her, suggests Christina W. "I learned that if I would lay him down with his upper body on a boppy (pillow), he seemed to like it better, and it also helped to rub his back and play some music," she says. Kristin S. adds, "My suggestion is to use some colorful toys in front of them that they can focus on, or prop them up with a towel, or a boppy pillow, because babies are more content that way."
3. Use a Mirror to Keep Baby Motivated
Babies love baby faces, and if they have something interesting to focus on, like their own image in a mirror, they will stay on their bellies longer. "My little girl hated tummy time too," says Tara M. "About a month ago I started making her do it every day. I started with a couple of minutes at a time several times throughout the day. She would start to cry and then settle down. Now, she stares at herself in the mirror on her play mat. She spends six to ten minutes at a time before she gets tired and puts her head down."
4. Get Down on Your Own Tummy
For a baby, the expression "Monkey see, monkey do" translates into "If mommy does it, I can too." Many Circle of Moms members suggest getting down onto your own belly during your baby's tummy time. Danielle H.'s son hated tummy time until "we started to give him tummy time with us on our tummies [while we] played with him."
5. Be Patient and Persistent
If your baby still resists mightily, take heart in the inevitability of change. Heidi O. reports that as a baby develops, he'll probably discover that the world is interesting from a belly vantage point, and his dislike of tummy time can fall away. She noticed one day that her son had learned to roll from his back to his stomach on his own. Now, she says, "he LOVES tummy time because he's the one that puts himself in that position. Every time I put him on his back, he flips to his tummy."
How do you get your baby to spend tummy time?
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