Tummy time, placing a baby on their stomach while awake and supervised, can help your baby develop strong head, neck and shoulder muscles and promote motor skills. It can also prevent the back of your baby's head from developing flat spots (positional plagiocephaly). Because all babies should be placed on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), they cannot exercise their neck muscles.
Your baby lifts their head on her tummy, strengthening their neck and upper back muscles. It also gives your little one a different view of the world. Being able to move his head reduces your baby’s risk of SIDS because he can move away from anything smothering him. Research also suggests that the more time babies spend on their tummies, the earlier they might begin to roll over, crawl on their stomachs, crawl on all fours, and sit without support.
Start by laying your newborn on his tummy on your chest while leaning back or across your lap two or three times a day for a few minutes. As your baby grows stronger, place him on a blanket on the floor after a diaper change or nap. Arrange age-appropriate toys within his reach or get on your hands and knees in front of your baby and talk or sing. He will lift his head and look up at your face and voice. As your baby gets used to tummy time, place your baby on his stomach more frequently or for longer periods. For a 3- to 4-month-old baby, some research suggests aiming for at least 20 minutes of tummy time daily.
If your baby becomes fussy or sleepy during tummy time, pick him up, change his activity or place your baby to sleep on their back in the crib. Don’t get discouraged. In time and with practice, your baby will grow to enjoy it. Remember, however, to never leave your baby unattended during tummy time.
See these additional articles of interest from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
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