The current practice of placing a baby on its back for sleeping has contributed to a decrease in the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome. Unfortunately, it also has led to a decrease in the time babies spend on their bellies.
Most newborns have the ability to successfully lift and turn their heads while on their stomachs. As they grow, they begin to use their arms to push up and lift their chest off the surface. These are the same muscles that will need to be strong for crawling and help them accurately reach for and play with toys. At the same time, babies are growing at an incredible rate. When an infant’s awake time does not include tummy time, it can result in arms that struggle to lift its own increased weight off the surface and, later, a struggle to crawl.
Parents can help infants enjoy being on their stomachs by following a few tips:
■ Try to limit tummy time when your baby is tired or has a full belly. (With newborns, this might seem like all the time!)
■ Positioning infants on their bellies when they are lying on your chest can allow you to recline at an angle, so your baby doesn’t have to fight gravity as much. It also has the added benefit of giving your baby something wonderful to look at.
■ This is not the baby Olympics. Frequent short periods are much more effective than 5 to 10 minutes. Try building it into a daily routine by putting your baby on its belly every time you finish diapering, and it will happen throughout the day.
■ When it is time to change positions, slowly help your baby to roll to his or her side or back. Before you know, your baby will be doing it on his or her own.
■ Reward the struggles by lying down in front of your baby or placing a baby mirror in front of him or her.
So have fun with your baby, and if you have questions or concerns, call Horizons’ Services for Children at 970-871-8558.
Jodi Glaisher is an occupational therapist for Horizons’ Services for Children. Horizons has been a member of the Routt County Early Childhood Council since its inception in 1997.