Last week we talked about physical activity and how important that is for both health and early brain develop. Today let’s expand that a bit and talk about one specific physical activity for our tiniest humans…Tummy Time! Helping parents understand why this is such an important part of their baby’s development will hopefully encourage them to make time for this frequently.
“Tummy time” offers multiple benefits to both infants and their parents. According to Dr. John M. Graham, infants should be on their stomachs whenever they are awake and under direct adult supervision to develop their prone motor skills and to encourage the full range of neck rotation. (Graham, 2006). Infants who are not provided with regular tummy time during the day or spend long periods on supine position may not build muscles in their neck and shoulders necessary for many motor skills like rolling over, sitting, or crawling. Studies have shown that the more time a baby spends in a baby carrier, car seat, swing, bouncy chair, or some other baby seating gear, the longer it takes for them to roll over or crawl (Callahan & Sisler, 1997)
Dr. Graham states that “the development of plagiocephaly, also known as the flat head syndrome is an indication that parents may not be providing their infants with adequate tummy time” (Graham, 2006). The Flat Head Syndrome is a flat spot on an infant’s head caused by the pressure of a firm surface pressing against it. These flat spots can develop from a baby spending extended periods of time lying on his back on the floor, in his crib or sitting in a molded, infant carrier.
Tummy time also provides opportunities to foster and grow the parent-child relationship through play and interactions. The GGK Module: The Baby is Coming Home…Get Ready – introduces the Baby Play Mat Activity. This activity is about parents creating their first Baby Play Mat for tummy time by using a couple of colorful fleece fabric pieces. It is presented during the prenatal phase or right after the birth of the baby to assist parents with building motivation for parents to place their infants on tummy time. It also provides conversation guides to remind parents about preparations for bringing their baby home. It includes suggestions for the supplies they will need to gather, important considerations about taking care of a new baby; but probably mostly to remind parents that what their babies will need most is their time and love. This module provides you with the perfect opportunity to discuss with parents why Pediatricians and Child Development Experts recommend that they spend time on the floor playing with their baby during – tummy time!
Sometimes parents are confused about how soon to start doing tummy time with their new baby. Health care providers say that tummy time should be encouraged within the first few days of life and continued thereafter (Waitzman, 2007). It is important to educate parents not only on the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and the accompanied recommendations related to non-prone sleep, bedding, and not smoking, but also on the risk of altered development if tummy time is not provided to stimulate play (Waitzman, 2007). Be sure that parents understand that laying on his tummy will be hard for him at first so, in the beginning, supervised Tummy Time will only be for a few minutes a day. Gradually they can try to work up to about an hour a day by the time the baby is 3 months old, not all at once though. Remind them that it doesn’t always have to be on the floor either. Sometimes they can sneak it in by laying the baby’s tummy on their chest or lap, or even holding the baby with her tummy along their arm. Growing Great Kids offers many child development activities throughout the curriculum to promote this kind of play and stimulation, and foster the development of secure attachment relationships.
The GGK: 0-3 months: Physical and Brain Development module also incorporates a conversation guide regarding the benefits of tummy time. This allows the exploration of what parents might already know about doing tummy time and why and how to do the Tummy Time Activity. This module provides you with some conversation starters like asking parent if they have tried:
- Lying baby on her tummy while talking and playing with her?
- Putting her on her tummy for a few minutes, many different times during the day?
- Putting interesting things, such as her favorite toy or toys that make music, where he can easily see them?
This will allow you to get a sense of where parents might be with practicing tummy time before the introduction of the activity.
The Prenatal Module – Infant States: How and When to Play with Newborns, includes a subsection – Accidental Lessons Happen During Tummy Time Play that is a good starting point for this conversation with prenatal families. It introduces the idea that research tells us that babies who do supervised tummy time roll over and crawl much more quickly. (Bridgewater & Sullivan, 1999) By encouraging parents to support tummy time for as long as the baby enjoys it, several times each day, they will be helping him take his first steps toward being able to run and jump.
So let’s not miss any opportunity to share information about the benefits of tummy time!
Bridgewater, K. J., & Sullivan, M. J. (1999). Wakeful positioning and movement control in young infants: A pilot study. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, 259-266.
Callahan, C. W., & Sisler, C. (1997). Use of seating devices in infants too young to sit. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 233-235.
Graham, J. M., Jr., (2006). CLIN PEDIATRIC. Tummy Time is Important. Volume 45 No. 2 Pages 119-121. Retrieved from http://cpj.sagepub.com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/content/45/2/119
Waitzman, K. A., (June 15, 2007). The Importance of Positioning the Near-term Infant for Sleep, Play, and Development. Newborn and Infant Nursing Reviews. Volume 7, Issue 2, Pages 76- 81. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/science/article/pii/S1527336907000451?np=y