Why do babies need to spend time on their bellies? Read about the importance of tummy time here.
What can you read in this article?
Importance of tummy time
How to incorporate it into your newborn’s routine
Safety tips for baby’s tummy time
As your baby grows, he begins to become more aware of the world around him and eager to find out more about the world around him. You help him with this by introducing him to tummy time.
According to Dr. Michiko Caruncho, a developmental pediatrician from Makati Medical Center, tummy time refers to a special position where you put your baby in, where he is placed on his belly.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies should “sleep on their backs, but play on their stomachs.”
They said that beginning on the first day home from the hospital, parents should play with the baby two to three times each day while he/she is on his/her stomach.
But what is so special about this position that experts strongly advise it for babies?
Importance of tummy time
Tummy time is important for baby’s overall development. Some of its benefits include:
It strengthens neck, shoulders and arms
Dr. Caruncho said that tummy time is essential for the first few days because it helps in strengthening your baby’s neck and core muscles.
“So during the first few days, weeks and months importante ang tummy time. Because it strengthens the baby’s neck, the muscles in the arm, shoulder,” she said.
Putting the baby down on her tummy helps build neck strength, giving them the ability to not only lift their head but also turn it to explore their surroundings.
Aside from improving neck strength, tummy time also makes the back and trunk muscles stronger, which babies will need in order to sit, crawl and eventually walk.
Promotes gross motor skills
Tummy time is a great way to help baby learn gross motor skills like moving his arms and legs, reaching, moving his head from side to side and supporting his head.
Prevents flat head syndrome
Because newborns are always in the same position every day, their sleeping position puts consistent pressure on the same parts of their skull. Babies 4 months and below are most at risk of having fat or deformed heads because they aren’t able to roll over by themselves.
According to Dr. Caruncho, putting your newborn in her belly while awake can help prevent plagiocephaly or otherwise known as flat head syndrome.
“One more important thing, it keeps the baby’s head in shape. Kasi pag palaging nakahiga, magiging flat. It is called plagiocephaly. ‘Pag ganoon, deformed, kaya we really encourage tummy time,” she said.
Image taken from Freepik
Giving baby tummy time also helps him move his head from side to side with ease. This can help prevent torticollis, a condition described as a stiffness of the neck that causes the head to tilt to one side, leaving it quite difficult for the infant to turn their head from side to side.
This can occur at birth, after being in a cramped position in the womb or trauma during labor, but it can also be acquired due to an accident or illness as well.
But as baby practices tummy time, he is also able to strengthen the muscles in his neck and avoid having torticollis.
Helps prevent gas and colic
Because a newborn’s digestive tract is not yet developed, there might be instances where he experiences pain in the gut or gets air bubbles inside his stomach which causes gas or colic.
However, a lot of experts believe that tummy time helps relieve symptoms o colic because it puts a bit of pressure in baby’s tummy, allowing the air bubbles to move and pass through. In fact, doctors recommend putting the baby in his belly after feeding (just as long as he’s awake) to help her burp and prevent from having colic.
Helps baby get ready to support his weight for crawling and rolling over
As your baby’s body becomes stronger as he practices moving on his belly, he will slowly be able to hold his head up, then support his weight and learn to crawl and roll over. Large movements like rolling, crawling, walking and eventually running will all be built upon those first moments of tummy time.
Dr. Caruncho said that while tummy time does not really speed up the development of a child, it definitely helps make sure that there won’t be any delays when it comes to baby’s motor skills.
“I have found or it has been shown na ang mga babies that don’t get consistent tummy time medyo delayed sa head control.
Mga baby na 3 to 4 months, na dapat kaya na nila head nila pero hindi pa stable. It is really important that parents do the tummy time for babies,” she shared.
Engages your baby’s senses
Being on the floor, or on their mat helps babies explore and experience more things with their senses like touching the surface of their mat, following a sound, staring at a colorful toy or looking at their reflection in the mirror.
Speeds up their cognitive development
From 0-3 months of age, the baby’s brain is growing rapidly, and the best way to aid their cognitive development is to let them explore and listen to the world around them.
While on their tummies, they are able to get a different perspective of their environment, moving their head to look around, show interest in faces and even make eye contact. All these actions will ultimately help their cognition.
Image taken from Freepik
Promotes bonding with baby
Although it’s not usually the first thing on our minds when we think about bonding with our baby, the truth is tummy time is extremely useful in this area.
Many experts recommend starting tummy time as soon as the infant is born, through skin-to-skin contact, which helps release happy hormones that promotes a feeling of closeness between the baby and his mother.
Establishes a routine and promotes independence
As our babies become stronger and start to try things on their own, it’s only natural that they will want to practice their independence further, and being on their tummies allows them to do that by letting them explore without your help (but still with supervision).
Tummy time can also be part of baby’s daily schedule after having a bath in the morning or before taking a nap. As they say, babies thrive when they have a routine.
How to do tummy time (and safety tips to remember)?
Now that you know the importance of tummy time, you can now include it to your baby’s daily routine. Incorporate tummy time into the activities you’re already doing with your baby, such as towel drying after bath time, changing diapers, or applying lotion.
One great way to begin tummy time with a newborn is to place your baby on your stomach or chest while you are awake and in a reclined position on a chair, bed, or floor.
Dr. Caruncho suggested starting slow and easy, in short sessions throughout the day, based on your baby’s tolerance and needs.
“We like to say 3 to 5 minutes and 2 to 3 times a day,” she said. “Siyempre start ka muna paunti-unti. Short periods of time. Pasanayin si baby (tapos) kapag nag eenjoy na siya, increase mo na,” she added.
Remember to pay attention to signs that your baby is getting tired, such as crying or resting his face on the surface, and be sure to end tummy time before your baby becomes fatigued.
When you put your baby down on his mat, sit or lie down in front of him during tummy time for safety and supervision. Make eye contact and entertain him by playing with him during that moment.
While putting baby down can mean getting a break from carrying him, always make sure to keep an eye on him while he’s having his tummy time and don’t allow him to sleep on his tummy.
Image taken from Freepik
Tummy time is a great way to help your baby develop his muscles and his brain. It’s also a fun way to spend time and bond with your little one.
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