“Tummy time” is a cute name that describes exactly what it is: it’s time baby spends laying on their tummy. Tummy time is a natural way to help your newborn build their head, neck and shoulder strength, and mobility. And strengthening those muscles leads to other physical and social development. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your baby.
As a new mother or a mother who has been around the playpen with more than one child, you probably know about and incorporate tummy time into you and your baby’s routine. But just in case you don’t, read on to learn how this simple practice affects your newborn’s overall health and wellness.
Why Tummy Time Is Important
With tummy time, baby is developing core strength. By this, we mean posture, balance control, motor skill development, visual skills, head control, ability to scan with their eyes, and focusing. So you can see the tummy position strengthens more than just the head, neck, and shoulders.
Tummy time lets you encourage your baby’s developmental milestones: rolling over, sitting up, reaching, pivoting … leading up to crawling, which is a step away from those first breakthrough walking steps. Being on their tummy helps them with bonding and socializing. Your baby is in the best position to start observing and interacting with their environment.
Prevention and Relief of Health Problems
Tummy time helps with:
Torticollis. If baby’s neck is tilted to one side and the chin turned to the other side, it’s most often due to tightness in the muscle that connects the breastbone and the collarbone to the skull. The tightness could have developed because of how your baby was positioned in the uterus or strained muscles during delivery.
Flat Head Syndrome (Plagiocephaly). When baby cannot rotate their cervical spine equally to both sides this causes a flatness on one side of the head. It’s due to a vertebrae that’s fixed or stuck in that position or a muscular imbalance. The more baby stays in a preferred posture, the more their head can flatten, making it more difficult to break the habit.
Acid reflux. A band of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) separates the stomach from the esophagus. After food enters the stomach, the LES contracts like a valve that closes and prevents stomach contents and acids from traveling back up into the esophagus. In some babies, the LES is temporarily immature, so it allows partially digested stomach contents and acids to be refluxed. This irritates the lining of the esophagus and causes pain, just as it can in adults. This can affect baby’s sleep, their nutrition, and comfort.
The Hesitation for Tummy Time
Some new moms have a fear of placing their newborns on their tummy because of infant death syndrome (SIDS), the leading cause of death among infants one month to one year old. New mothers are instructed to place babies on their backs to sleep.
But supervised time on their tummies, while they are awake, is a perfectly normal and safe practice. You’re right there with them and watching. Start as soon as baby is at home and you both are acclimated to a routine.
When to Practice Tummy Time
● Avoid tummy time right after a feeding. The pressure on their full abdomen may cause stomach upsets and spit-ups.
● Use extra padding under their tummy so baby is comfortable and not laying on a hard surface.
Acclimating Baby to Tummy Time
Your baby needs help easing into the practice of tummy time. It won’t be natural for them and it’s strenuous at first. We see a lot of babies in our office that hate tummy time because their necks are so tight; they don’t have good head extension.
● The good news is that improvements in tummy time are typically one of the first improvements we see when an infant doesn’t have the best mobility of their neck. Some babies will initially protest when they’re placed facedown. A baby has to work extra hard against gravity to keep their head up.
● Begin at first by carrying baby in your arms, tummy down. Support them with one hand between their legs and the other hand between their head and shoulders. Try standing in one place, gently swinging baby from side to side in this position. A good demonstration of these and several other techniques can be found in this video: Pathways.org video.
● A good next step is to place baby belly-down on your chest or across your lap for a few minutes so they get accustomed to the position. Spread your legs so they don’t push on baby’s tummy and their tummy can settle into the gap.
● When you think baby is ready, place them tummy-down on the floor or a padded table.
● This is a great time to interact with your baby. Get down on their level, eye level. Talk to them, make funny faces, move toys from side to side to encourage them to turn their head. (Baby should be holding their head up when turned to one side.)
● Use distractions like toys, rattles, bright-colored objects to keep them focused on those and not on being on their tummy.
● To help baby adjust, incorporate tummy time into a daily routine, like after a diaper change or bath.
Tummy Time Milestones
Tummy time doesn’t have to be done all at one time. Start out for a minute and gradually increase the time. Spread it out during the day to reach the goal. But tummy time should always be supervised. Don’t put baby on tummy unattended. Here are some milestone guidelines:
● At 1 week: 5 minutes/day
● At 4 weeks: 10 minutes minimum of tummy time
● At 8 weeks: 20 minutes
● At 12 weeks: 45 minutes
● At 16 weeks: 80 minutes
Special Tummy Time Situations
● For babies with sensitive abdominal areas, use the soothing lap position to create a gap around the sensitive area.
● For babies with large heads, introduce tummy time more gradually.
● If baby has acid reflux, use an inclined position by placing a rolled up receiving blanket or pillow underneath baby’s chest to put them at a mild angle.
Signs Baby Is Uncomfortable During Tummy Time
If baby seems uncomfortable or upset during tummy time despite the interaction and distractions, or when their head is turned in one direction or not holding their head up, it might be an indicator of neuromuscular issues. In that case, it’s time for an assessment by a pediatric chiropractor.
Babies who have a misalignment in their spine will experience stress on their nervous system. The top of their neck is often very uncomfortable during tummy time.
Another sign of discomfort to look for is if they are favoring one side over the other. If you notice these or other discomforts or compensations, make an appointment with us.
Necessity for Newborns
So you can see how strengthening baby’s head and neck muscles and exercising their range of motion as in tummy time is so necessary. New mothers receive tons of information about how to position baby for sleep but probably not enough information on their postural control while they’re awake. According to the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics, tummy time is a necessity for correct positioning of a newborn.
We Are Pediatric Chiropractors
We are Doctors Michelle Parker and Darcy Goode. Dr. Parker is certified by the Academy Council of Chiropractic Pediatric Association in pediatric chiropractic for pre- and postnatal specialties. She is the only chiropractor with the C.A.C.C.P certification in Parker County. Both of us have specific chiropractic expertise in working on muscles of newborns.
Centrally Located near Fort Worth
The office of The Chiropractic Place for Mommy and Me is in Aledo, Texas, just 15 minutes west of downtown Fort Worth or 10 minutes east of Weatherford, Hudson Oaks, and Willow Park. The clinic serves these counties: East Parker County, Tarrant, Parker, Erath, Palo Pinto, Hood, Wise, Denton, Dallas, and Johnson.
Feel free to visit our social media pages on Instagram @TheChiroPlaceforMommyandMe or Facebook @TheChiroPlace to get a feel for our atmosphere and how we work with mothers and children. We are proud to offer a family-friendly, kid-approved, and mother-oriented space to the community. Give our office a call to get your baby’s appointment scheduled today at 682-214-0408.