Some babies love it, some hate it, but tummy time -- during which your baby lies tummy-down on the floor -- is essential for her development. It's a crucial first step toward important developmental milestones such as rolling over, sitting up and crawling.
In this position, she can practice lifting her head, thereby strengthening her neck and upper body muscles. The position also encourages her to figure out what those hands and toes can do. Here are our top six tips for making tummy time more enjoyable for your baby and you.
Remember: This position is rather new to your baby, so don't be surprised if she cries. Rest assured, though, that she is not in pain of any sort, and she will come to enjoy it in short order.
You can start formal tummy time when your baby is about 2 months old and can lift her head. She can spend time in this position before then, but only when she's awake and supervised. When you put your baby on her tummy, lie right beside her -- talking, stroking and encouraging her. Repeat this a few times a day until she can tolerate more than 5 minutes on his tummy at a time; then, twice a day will suffice.
Here are six ways to help your baby see how much fun she can have -- and to help you get past those initial wails.
Put all those baby toys in her crib and at the bottom of her toy chest to good use. Use squeaky, colorful toys, board books, music players and pretty much anything that lights up and plays music in front of her at her eye level. Boppy makes two tummy time mats, each of which includes a "mini Boppy" and detachable rings and toys.
Make it a mommy-and-me activity
Lie on your back, tummy to tummy with your baby. Dangle a toy between the two of you, make silly faces, sing songs, hold her close -- anything to get her to hold up her head and chest. Being close to you might keep her on her tummy a bit longer.
Get a Boppy
Chances are, you've used a Boppy pillow -- typically used to lift Baby to a more ergonomic position for comfortable feedings. It comes in handy for tummy time, too. Just prop your baby's chest and armpits against the Boppy (Boppy under his chest, and his arms in front of it) to provide a bit of support and prevent face plants on the blanket beneath him.
Take it slowly
Your baby doesn't need to stay on her tummy for 20 minutes at a time right from the start. Begin with increments of 2 minutes, several times a day.
Make sure he's comfortable
If your baby is lying on a mat or blanket, make sure it's not scrunched up beneath him. Check for cold drafts. Take off his socks to give him a little traction. Try lightly massaging his back while he's on his tummy.
Don't let those cries get the best of you
While hearing your baby cry for even a millisecond might be difficult, letting him fuss for a minute or two will not harm him in the long run. Remember, you're not an ogre; rather, you're a responsible, informed parent encouraging important exercise for your baby. And with time -- probably less than you think -- he'll come to know tummy time as his special time to play, move and cuddle with you.
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