Photo credit goes to Darlene Puzon at http://www.dpuzonphotography.net/ Please note: this picture is not an accurate depiction of Tummy Time. In fact, it is not recommended to have a baby sleeping on its stomach which is why Tummy Time was introduced. This was a peaceful photo taken by a photographer while my daughter was supervised. This article contains affiliate links.
As you raise a child in this world, your parents or older generation family members will constantly remind you that it was different when they raised you. They didn’t have monitors, wipe warmers, white noise devices, and they did not do tummy time. There has been, however, many generational shifts especially with the fear that a child sleeping on its stomach could lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Campaigns encouraging moms to place their baby on their back to sleep began to emerge. The problem became, however, that a baby was spending TOO much time on their back. Tummy time became the solution for this new problem. Infants sleep a lot (in between feeding and crying), thus placing a baby on the tummy enables them to develop neck muscles which will eventually help them crawl.
So how to begin tummy time?
When researching tummy time, I found a pamphlet that recommended new moms to start an infant at 3-5 minutes. I am not a medical doctor, but from my personal experience my children would be screaming louder than a banshee if I started with three minutes. To be honest, your baby will do that when they are hungry, tired and uncomfortable so why stress them (and you) out during an activity that is supposed to be fun. I began at a minute and slowly increased without pressuring my`child. I also didn’t begin tummy time until after the umbilical cord fell out.
We would sneak tummy time minutes in between diaper changes. For example, after bath time, we would put my son on his stomach and give him a back massage. I started with small steps in the beginning. Instead of placing the baby on our shoulder to burp, we would place the baby on our lap. In addition, my husband and I would lie down on our backs and place the baby on our stomach for more time on their belly. This strategy was introduced when my son had a restless stomach and the closeness to our heartbeat was comforting.
We began tummy time with very limited time in the beginning but attempted to incorporate this activity in several different ways. We then increased time as our child demonstrated comfort and greater strength. Most importantly, we never left our child unattended during tummy time as anything could happen.
As far as what to put the baby on, I think an activity mat is a great option! Unlike a rolled up blanket like in the picture above, activity mats have little points of interest such as bells, squishy or crinkly toys, and mirrors. It is great to have a variety of objects that can offer visual interest or different textures. It is also offers great sensory stimulation.
Activity mats come in different styles from bright and bold colors to more natural and simple designs. They can come equipped with a pillow and some play music. My advice is to pick one that is comfortable and makes the baby happy. If they become over-stimulated or are uncomfortable, the mat will not serve any purpose except get everyone frustrated. Some mats I recommend are (affiliate links):
- Baby Einstein Caterpillar and Friends Play Gym
- Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Gym
- Fisher-Price Kick and Play Piano Gym
- Infantino Merry Monkey Gym
Each time I put my child on a mat, I would rotate the location and types of toys used. I recommend picking up links, such as Bright Starts Lots of Links, which enable you to add more toys to your activity mat. They are also great to keep in the diaper bag as you can pull a few out to entertain your baby when you are out.
Tummy time is a great time to interact and sing to your child. The best part? Infants love to hear your voice whether you can sing or if you are like me and should only sing in the shower of an empty home. You can play some soothing songs which is a great way encourage an appreciation of music. In our home, The Beatles were constantly being played.
What about babywearing?
Here’s the thing: not everyone does tummy time. In fact, a few mamas I know don’t strictly follow the regimen recommended in the books. When I first heard this, my heart almost stopped. If the doctor recommends tummy time than it should be done I originally thought as a fledgling mom. Except that instead of putting their babies in a stroller or a car seat (outside of a car), they wore their babies.
Wearing your baby in a Moby, Beco or K’tan baby carrier, or any other variety of device that straps your baby to your body, provides the baby with time to develop the same muscles that help them crawl. In fact, I have the Beco Butterfly 2 and loved it because my baby always could hear my heartbeat, and I was able to do simple household tasks while they hung out or napped. Infants are used to hearing our heartbeat so babywearing is comforting to them. Our rule was that we would only use the Beco Butterfly 2 when we would be walking for extended periods of time such as fairs, walks and household tasks.
As a new mom, you may not feel comfortable with babywearing and prefer tummy time. That is fine. As a mom, you can explore both of these options and decide how much you will incorporate into your baby’s life. My ultimate recommendation is to not become overly dependent on devices that keep your baby on their back. Just like if you had to sit in an office chair for twelve hours it would be painful and not be healthy for your body.
Babies can’t walk so they spend a lot of time reclined and immobile. Don’t rely on all the comfortable tools available. In no way am I saying to not use them, but don’t use all of them all of the time. Raising a child involves balance. Explore the various tools (swing, chair, baby carrier, pack and play, activity mats) that exist but remember when it comes to a child and your health, balance is key.