Tummy time—placing a baby on his or her 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 also called positional plagiocephaly. Because all babies should be placed on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) they don’t have an opportunity to exercise their neck muscles.
On their tummy, a baby lifts their head, which strengthens neck and upper back muscles. It also gives your little one a different view of the world. Being able to move their head reduces your baby’s risk of SIDS because they can move away from anything smothering them. 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 their 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 them on a blanket on the floor after a diaper change or nap. Arrange age-appropriate toys within their reach or get on your hands and knees in front of your baby and talk or sing.
They will lift their head and look up at your face and voice. As your baby gets used to tummy time, place your baby on their stomach more frequently or for longer periods of time. For a 3- to 4-month-old baby, some research suggests aiming for at least 20 minutes of tummy time a day.
If your baby becomes fussy or sleepy during tummy time, pick them up, change their 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 to never leave your baby unattended during tummy time.
Get additional information on tummy time and safe sleep from the American Academy of Pediatrics
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