Tummy Time Myths

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Tummy Time Advice…There are certain tummy time myths that are part of that advice. You’ve heard about it at each baby well visit and read it in all the baby advice books. All of that tummy time advice is so important. But what happens when that sweet little baby wails as soon as they are down on the floor? Those little screams can break a mama’s heart! It can be stressful for mom and dad when tummy time results in a red-faced, screaming baby. Here’s the thing though. Tummy time doesn’t need to be stressful. But how do you break through those screams of discomfort? It’s actually part of the tummy time myths we’re debunking here. Read more for tummy time myths and what’s really happening:

When to start tummy time and other tummy time myths that parents have.

Your Biggest Tummy Time Myths Busted

What is the biggest myth or misconception surrounding tummy time ? What is one thing that many parents believe…but it just isn’t true?

Here’s the thing: Babies don’t actually hate tummy time.

Back to Sleep has our babies sleeping on their backs, and that’s a good thing. But babies are also spending a lot more time on their backs that is necessary it’s having an impact on development, and issues like Flat Head Syndrome ( or Positional Plagiocephaly), or torticollis (or stiff neck in babies). There are other issues that can come up as a result of lack of tummy time. There is a reason why doctors and therapists agree that babies need that time every single day. Tummy time is so important for neck and core strength, digestion, spatial awareness, eye-hand coordination, visual processing, preventing flat spots on the head, and strength and stability of the trunk, neck, and arms.

Tummy Time Myth #1 My baby hates tummy time.

Baby needs tummy time. Baby is placed on their belly…and they scream. Mom or dad swoops in and picks up baby. They MUST be in pain, right? Crying = something is wrong, right? Wrong! Your baby actually doesn’t hate tummy time!

So often, parents of a young baby are told to place their infant into tummy time for proper development, strengthening. The pediatrician has mentioned it at each doctor’s visit. But each time you dread it. It hurts your heart to hear that sweet little thing wail or downright scream each time he or she is placed on her belly!

Baby actually just needs a little help learning to get comfortable, adjust to new positioning, staying calm, connecting with a loved one, and engaging in this strange, new view of the world. Think about it this way: your child just spent a long nine months (or more/less) curled up in a cozy fetal position in the womb. That’s a lot of time to get comfortable in a curved and flexed position. Then, that newborn sweetie is swaddled, held, placed on their back to sleep, or snuggled in a car seat or baby swing most of the day and night.

Positioning baby on their stomach actually stretches and lengthens those muscles that have for so long been curved up in a snuggly curved forward position. Laying a baby on their belly stretches and develops the muscles that will later support the child in sitting and playing in the coming months. Tummy time is also essential for neck and core strength, visual processing, and eye-hand coordination. It prevents flat spots on the head and allows for flexibility of the neck and hips. The problem is that all of this work is hard for baby!

So, a crying baby in tummy time is definitely communicating their dislike of this new and hard task of stretching out those muscles and joints. They are telling you that the hard sensation of the floor on their tummy is different. They are expressing uneasiness in the way they can.

Tummy Time Myth #2: Tummy Time starts at 2 months

Nope! Tummy time actually starts before that three month time, or even one month. In fact, tummy time starts much, much earlier! Knowing when to start tummy time is actually one of the most common questions new parents have about their baby.

When to start tummy time?

Tummy time starts day one! That’s the thing: tummy time can start on the day (or night) that your little one is born and it can be easy to do. As soon as baby is fed, rest that sweet little one on your chest and you’ve got a baby in its first session of tummy time. Using chest positioning several times a day is an easy way to transition to floor tummy time where the little babe can build the strength they need.

Tummy Time Myth #3: Tummy Time is Hard!

When little baby cries because they are used to going “Back to Sleep”, spending time in their car seat, baby swing, bouncer, Bumbo pillow, or curled up to eat, they can have some trouble in tummy time. Think about it: when your little one has spent so much time curled up in a comfortable bent forward (flexed) position, laying on the floor in tummy time can put a stretch on those muscles. But tummy time doesn’t need to be hard…

In fact, there are some simple ways to make tummy time easier for baby so that the important strengthening, stretching, and development can happen:

  • Use short 3-4-minute periods of tummy time several times throughout the day instead of longer spurts. Make it part of the routine of the day.
  • Try positioning baby in tummy time in position where they feel more connected to mom or dad: on a parent’s chest, laying across the knees with support, in the arms in a football hold, with a nursing pillow, etc. Here are more tummy time activities in various positioning.
  • Get down on the floor and make eye contact with a soothing voice. Baby needs to feel connection so he/she can learn to stay calm in tummy time. A tummy time mat can make the floor feel softer and provide an engaging surface. Some of the best tummy time mats have bold patterns with black and white or black/white/red patterns.
  • Engage with baby in play while in tummy time. Invite siblings to play with baby. Talk to baby. Use tummy time toys to engage baby. The options are limitless. Try this tummy time play idea with baby-safe mirrors.
  • Encourage reaching for toys and development of eye-hand coordination skills that will drive crawling, play, and eventually reading and writing. Here are some baby play ideas for older babies, but some to give an idea of tummy time play.

A final Note on Tummy TIme Myths

Did any of these tummy time myths resonate with you? Have you run across questions about tummy time or wonder when to start tummy time? Let me know in the comments below. Add your tummy time tips too. You never know if they may help another new parent!