Some babies contentedly lie on their tummies, while others fuss and cry the moment they're set down. Tummy time provides babies with important opportunities to develop their head, neck and shoulder muscles, and serves as a precursor to movements such as rolling and crawling. With all the time babies spend sleeping on their backs, adding in tummy time helps prevent the backs of their heads from becoming flat. With so many benefits to tummy time, you may wonder what to do when your baby hates it.
It is best to begin laying your baby on his stomach right away to help him get used to this position. You can lay your newborn across your lap during times when he is awake and alert, or place him against your stomach or chest. Do this every day, two to three times, varying your baby's position every 10 to 15 minutes. Also try carrying your newborn on his stomach, to get him accustomed to this position. As your baby becomes stronger, tummy time can take place on a blanket on the floor. Gradually increase the duration to 20 minutes.
Why Issues Arise
It is not uncommon for a baby to become upset when placed on her stomach. The position may be unfamiliar to her, compared to lying on her back or being carried in an upright position. She may have difficulty lifting her head up, which can cause frustration. Being on her stomach can also prevent the baby from seeing her caregiver, which can cause despair.
Increasing the Enjoyment
Try laying your baby on an activity mat with textures to explore, or a patterned blanket to create visual interest. Place toys your baby enjoys within his reach. Lie on the floor with your baby so he can see you. If he is still becoming fussy, try shorter periods of time on his tummy and work towards gradually increasing the duration.
Your baby may prefer to lie on you, stomach to stomach, when you are both alert. Another option is to lay your baby on her side, using a rolled-up blanket or towel to support her back, and head support such as a rolled-up washcloth or receiving blanket if necessary. You can try laying your baby on her stomach across an exercise ball, holding her carefully and gently rolling the ball from side to side. If your baby is struggling to lift her head during tummy time, use a rolled-up towel or breastfeeding pillow to prop up her upper body. Position her arms over the top of the towel or pillow to allow for comfortable movement. If your baby is still struggling to hold her head up by three months, contact your health care provider.
Image via Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images