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Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play!

08/18/2014 01:54PM ● Published by Hood Magazine

Photo courtesy of Shauna Graham

By South Dakota Department of Health   Image title

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies always be put on their backs for naps and nighttime to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But when baby is awake and being watched carefully, play time on the tummy is important. From the time baby comes home from the hospital, a little tummy time can be incorporated each day when baby is awake and content. Tummy time helps prevent flat spots from developing on baby’s head, and also helps the development of strong head, neck, shoulder, and other muscles that will eventually be used to help baby push up, roll over, sit up, crawl, and pull to a stand.

Many babies initially dislike tummy time. Don’t be discouraged! It often takes patience and practice to get baby to accept tummy time. Avoid trying tummy time when baby is fussing, tired, or has just been fed. A good time may be after a diaper change or after a nap.

Some parents start by laying their newborn face down across their lap for two or three short periods a day. You can also try laying baby on your chest while you recline, talking softly to him/her to encourage baby to lift his or her head in an attempt to see you. As baby gets a bit older, a clean firm surface like a mat or a thin blanket on a carpet can be used. Respond to baby’s cries, but try to distract him/her by talking, offering age appropriate toys, or by using a play quilt. Join baby on the floor and lay head to head, talking and playing to encourage baby to pick up his/her head to see you, show interest in a toy, etc. Some research suggests by the time baby is 3-4 months old, the aim should be about 20 minutes of tummy time a day.

It is important to remember that baby should not be alone during tummy time. Stay with baby and change the activity if he continues to fuss, or put him to sleep on his back in a safe crib if he becomes sleepy. There are many resources and tips for parents who want to learn more about tummy time. A website that offers an instructional video is tummytimetips.com.

Parenting, Today, In Print, Health back to sleep tummy to play