Easing the Journey When Your Baby Hates Tummy Time: A Complete Guide for Parents

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Introduction – The Tummy Time Struggle

It’s a typical Tuesday afternoon. Your adorable baby is laying on their tummy, but rather than happily exploring their surroundings, they’re wailing like a banshee. Sound familiar? If you’re like many parents, you’ve probably uttered the phrase, “my baby hates tummy time,” more than once.

Understanding Tummy Time and Its Importance

But what exactly is tummy time, and why is it so important? Tummy time, as the name suggests, is when your baby spends time on their stomach while awake and supervised. It’s crucial for developing strength in their neck, shoulders, arms, and core.

What is Tummy Time and Why it is Crucial for Your Baby’s Development

Think of tummy time as your baby’s gym session. Just like how adults work out to build muscle and improve health, babies need tummy time to develop their motor skills. This little exercise is a stepping stone for important milestones such as rolling over, sitting up, and crawling.

Expert Advice: The Developmental Benefits of Tummy Time

Pediatrician Matthew Badgett, MD, explains that tummy time is as simple as putting a baby on their tummy for short periods of time every day to help train them. He identifies four main benefits of tummy time:

  1. Motor skill development: Tummy time helps infants develop the muscles that enable them to lift their heads, roll, and eventually, crawl. It aids in developing core muscle strength, as well as the muscles in the back, neck, and arms. Studies have indicated that babies who don’t spend time in this position are more likely to experience a delay in motor development.
  2. Reduces chances of skull deformity: Babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, excessive time on their backs can lead to flat head syndrome, or positional plagiocephaly, which tummy time can help prevent.
  3. Promotes sensory development: Being on their bellies allows babies to experience different body positions and movements, and they start learning how their arms and legs move. It also gives them a completely different view of the world.
  4. Opportunities to bond: Tummy time is an early chance for interaction and play with your baby, which is a crucial bonding activity.​1

Dr. Badgett also provides guidelines on how to do tummy time safely. 

“Parents are encouraged to place the infant in tummy time while awake and supervised for short periods of time beginning soon after hospital discharge, increasing incrementally to at least 15 to 30 minutes total daily by 7 weeks of age.”4

– American Academy of Pediatrics

The Challenge – Why Babies Hate Tummy Time

So, if tummy time is so crucial, why do babies hate it?

Common Challenges Parents Face During Tummy Time

For parents, the sight of their little ones in distress can be quite disheartening. Moreover, the persistent crying and resistance during tummy time often lead to parents avoiding it altogether, thereby delaying their baby’s development.

The Science Behind Why Babies Dislike Tummy Time

Imagine you’re just a few months old, everything is new, and suddenly you find yourself face down, unable to move freely or see much. It can be pretty unsettling, right? Babies are used to being held, cuddled, and having a full view of their surroundings. Tummy time is a different, and often uncomfortable, ball game for them.

The Solution – Making Tummy Time Better

The good news is, even if your baby hates tummy time now, it doesn’t have to be a battle. With the right approach and techniques, you can turn it into an enjoyable activity for your baby.

Techniques to Help Your Baby Enjoy Tummy Time

Remember, making tummy time enjoyable for your baby can be as much of an art as it is a science. Here are some techniques that can help your baby grow to love their tummy time:

  1. Make it a Routine: Just like feeding and sleeping, tummy time should also be a part of your baby’s daily routine. Start with just a few minutes at a time, and as your baby grows stronger and more comfortable, you can gradually increase this time.
  2. Engage with Them: Your presence can be very comforting for your baby. Get down on the floor with them, maintain eye contact, and talk or sing to them. This can make the experience more enjoyable for your baby.
  3. Use Props: Colorful toys, baby-safe mirrors, or even your own face can be fascinating for your baby. Arrange these items around your baby during tummy time to encourage them to lift their head and move around.
  4. Try Different Positions: If your baby is resisting tummy time on the floor, try other positions. For example, you can hold your baby on your chest while you lay back, or place them on your lap. These positions can also give your baby the benefits of tummy time.

Practical Tips: Making Tummy Time Fun and Engaging

Remember, the key to successful tummy time is to make it fun. Turn it into a game. You can tickle your baby’s feet, make funny faces, or place their favorite toy just out of reach to encourage them to move. The more enjoyable the experience, the more your baby will start to look forward to tummy time.

Precautionary Measures: Preventing the Tummy Time Trouble

Just as it’s important to know how to make tummy time enjoyable, it’s equally important to know what to avoid. Here are some tips:

  1. Don’t Force It: If your baby is crying or seems distressed during tummy time, it’s okay to take a break. You can try again later when your baby is more relaxed.
  2. Avoid Tummy Time Right After Feeding: This can cause your baby to spit up. Wait for at least an hour after feeding before starting tummy time.
  3. Always Supervise: Never leave your baby unattended during tummy time. Always stay close by to ensure they are safe.

Research Findings: Steps to Make Tummy Time Enjoyable from the Beginning

According to a systematic review of tummy time and infant health outcomes,

“The World Health Organization recommends tummy time for infants because of the benefits of improved motor development and reduced likelihood of plagiocephaly.”3

The review found that tummy time was positively associated with gross motor and total development, a reduction in the BMI-z score, prevention of brachycephaly, and the ability to move while prone, supine, crawling, and rolling. An indeterminate association was found for social and cognitive domains, plagiocephaly, walking, standing, and sitting. No association was found for fine motor development and communication.3

For newborns (0-2 months), because they can’t lift their heads very much, if at all, you should make sure their face isn’t in the ground. You can roll up a small towel to prop up their chest. You can even lie on your back and put your newborn on your own stomach, tummy to tummy. This still counts as tummy time and also allows for physical bonding. The goal at this age should be to do tummy time two or three times a day for three to five minutes apiece, working up to 20 or more minutes a day.​1

For babies aged 2-4 months, as they start getting stronger, they’ll become more aware of their surroundings. They’ll start tolerating longer stretches of tummy time, and they may even come to enjoy it. They’ll develop better head control and can keep their heads up longer. At this stage, they might not need a towel to prop them up anymore.​1

As for the benefits of tummy time on cognitive development, the studies included in a systematic review had an indeterminate association between tummy time and cognitive development. However, it was positively associated with gross motor and total development, a reduction in the BMI-z score, prevention of brachycephaly, and the ability to move while prone, supine, crawling, and rolling​.3

Conclusion – Overcoming the Tummy Time Trouble

You’re Not Alone: The Universal Struggle with Tummy Time

Remember, if your baby hates tummy time, you’re not alone. It’s a common challenge faced by parents worldwide. But with patience, persistence, and the right techniques, your baby will soon start to enjoy their little workout sessions.

Key Takeaways: Making Tummy Time a Positive Experience

So let’s recap: start early, keep it short and fun, gradually increase the duration, and most importantly, be there for your baby. Soon, “my baby hates tummy time” will be a thing of the past.

Frequently Asked Questions

Top 5 FAQs about Tummy Time and Their Answers

To wrap things up, let’s look at some frequently asked questions about tummy time…

Q1: When should I start tummy time with my baby?

You can start tummy time as soon as your baby comes home from the hospital. First, aim for a few minutes at a time, several times a day, while your baby is awake and supervised.

Q2: What if my baby doesn’t like tummy time?

It’s not uncommon for babies to resist tummy time initially. They might cry or get frustrated. It’s important not to force it. Instead, gradually increase the duration and make sure to keep it fun and interactive. If your baby is getting too upset, stop and try again later.

Q3: How much tummy time does my baby need?

The amount of tummy time your baby needs can vary depending on their age and comfort level. Initially, a few minutes several times a day is sufficient. As your baby grows stronger and more comfortable, you can gradually increase this time.

Q4: Is it okay if my baby falls asleep during tummy time?

It’s important to make sure your baby is awake and supervised during tummy time to prevent the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). If your baby falls asleep on their tummy, gently move them onto their back.

Q5: Can I do tummy time after feeding my baby?

It’s generally recommended to wait about an hour after feeding before doing tummy time to prevent spitting up or discomfort from a full stomach. Find a time when your baby is alert and active, such as after a diaper change or nap.

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Anabel Nettles

Join me on this engaging blog, where I'll explore the latest trends, innovations, and must-have baby items. Together, we'll navigate the vast world of baby products, uncover hidden gems, and make parenthood an even more enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

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