I have had 2 kids now and my first one hated tummy time and my second one loves it. My first child turned out alright, so what is the big deal about tummy time? By the time I started putting her on her tummy she quickly learned how to turn herself back over and so trying to make her do tummy time was a mute point because she would never stay on her tummy for more than a few seconds.
My son is completely the opposite. He would love to be on his tummy all the time if we’d let him! He plays so long on his tummy he ends up falling asleep on his tummy and I have to watch him closely while he naps or pick him up and turn him back over.
One thing I did notice was that my son can turn himself from tummy to back and back to tummy at only 3 months old. Maybe that is due to him being on his tummy more than most babies?
But besides walking my daughter wasn’t slow developing in any areas even though she didn’t do tummy time. So what is the point of tummy time? What are the benefits? What are the risks? What are the possible consequences of not doing tummy time?
According to BabyZone’s Ask An Expert the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended, to reduce SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) babies should sleep on their backs. This is the safest position for your baby to sleep because his head, nose and mouth are not going to be blocked so he/she will be able to breath. When sleeping baby should also not have blankets as these can cause the baby to pull them up over their faces and possibly suffocate themselves.
This recommendation by AAP to have babies sleep on their backs has led to an increase in misshapen heads. The constant pressure on the back of the head can sometimes cause a flattened spot on the back of the head. This has led experts to suggest tummy time to help reduce the flattening effect.
Tummy time allows babies to take the pressure off the back of their heads and reduce that flattening effect. It also gives them a chance to strengthen their muscles to prepare them for crawling, rolling over, sitting unsupported and eventually walking.
Tummy time doesn’t just mean putting your baby on the floor and leaving them or just watching them lay there. You need to get down on the ground with your baby and play with them. Make silly noises, talk in silly voices, make silly faces, sing songs, show them toys or books with bright colors, hand them their rattles, place their favorite toy in front of them a few inches and watch them learn to reach for it and then eventually scoot towards it and then crawl to get it!
Tummy time doesn’t even have to be on the floor. The point of tummy time is to get them off the backs of their head. I lie down on the ground or in bed and put my baby on your chest while I read or watch TV. This gives baby the opportunity to watch me and sleep on my chest where I can feel him breathing and gets him off of the back of his head. You can also hold your baby upright in your forearms (sitting up) instead of the traditional cradle hold, or use a front carrying back pack to carry your baby around in instead of the infant car carrier (use the infant car seat while in the car). When you baby has head control, place them on a boppy or other nursing pillow and give them toys to play with. Use an exercise ball to make it more fun. Place your baby on her tummy on top of the ball and hold her back with your hand and gently, slowly, roll the ball forward and backwards (make sure you have a secure hold of your baby in case the ball rolls too much accidentally).
It is recommended that your baby participates in tummy time activities for a total of at least 30 minutes a day, whether it’s all at one time or broken up into smaller times throughout the day it doesn’t really matter.
Hopefully this helps answer some of your questions about tummy time. It’s more important than just reaching developmental milestones.