What Is Tummy Time, And Why Is It Important?

Let's Talk Tummy Time | District Speech & Language Therapy | Washington D.C. & Arlington VA

Are you worried that your baby’s muscles aren’t developing at the same rate as babies the same age as them?

Or has your child been diagnosed with torticollis?

If so, you might be worried or confused, which is entirely natural.

It can feel discouraging to receive a diagnosis or wonder whether your baby’s muscles are developing as they should.

Luckily, there are ways to help your child grow and achieve their full potential.

Solutions include physical therapy for torticollis in infants, learning more about their condition, and having “tummy time” with your child.

But what is tummy time, and what does it have to do with your child’s muscle growth and gross motor skills development?

Keep reading to find out how you can encourage your child’s muscle growth, support them if they have torticollis, and how physical therapy for infants with torticollis can help.

You’ll also learn some ways to make tummy time a more pleasant experience for your baby.

Benefits Of Tummy Time

Tummy time is when you place your baby on their tummy during playtime, instead of leaving them on their back before they are old enough to walk or crawl.

Having tummy time is a great way to encourage your child to develop and strengthen their neck, back, and shoulder muscles.

The health and growth of these muscles is important for them to meet early milestones in terms of their motor skills.

Having tummy time may also prevent conditions like plagiocephaly and torticollis.

Here are some of the benefits of having tummy time with your child.

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1. It Helps Their Development

When your child looks at their surroundings from their position on their tummy, they exercise the back, neck, and shoulder muscles that they’ll use for the rest of their life.

As your child begins to gain head and neck control from being on their tummy, they’ll be able to push up on their forearms and hands.

This movement helps to stabilize their shoulders.

It also strengthens their hands, in preparation for future fine motor skill development.

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2. It Helps Them Explore Their Environment

Tummy time encourages your child to explore their environment in new ways.

If your child spends all their time on their back, they can only see the ceiling if they’re not old enough to walk or crawl.

But when your child is on their stomach, they can lift their head and engage with their surroundings right side up.

They’ll be able to see more of what’s around them and their senses will be stimulated more than when they are lying on their back.

3. It Prevents Health Conditions

A child who spends all their time lying on their back is less likely to experience SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome.

That’s good, of course.

However, there are also risks to consider when a baby spends all their time on their back.

For example, babies who only lie on their back are at a greater risk of developing both torticollis and flat head syndrome, also known as plagiocephaly.

With flat head syndrome, your baby’s head begins to lose its shape – flattening out.

While pediatric physical therapy for flat head syndrome can help, it’s better to encourage tummy time to avoid it in the first place.

Premature babies are more likely to develop flat head syndrome as well.

RELATED: Speech Issues Common In Premature Babies

So, it’s a good idea to encourage tummy time for premature babies even more.

Encouraging tummy time will decrease the likelihood of your baby’s head flattening out.

RELATED: Getting A Better Understanding Of Plagiocephaly
RELATED: Important Pediatric Physical Therapy Milestones

When Should Baby Begin Tummy Time?

There is no such thing as too early to start tummy time.

Your baby can benefit from tummy time as soon as they’re born.

The sooner you encourage tummy time, the sooner your baby will begin strengthening their head, neck, and shoulder muscles.

Why Do Babies Dislike Tummy Time?

At first, your child might not enjoy tummy time.

That’s because they might not be used to the feeling of having to work against gravity to keep their head upright.

It can also be tiring.

If your baby hasn’t exercised their head muscles, neck, and upper back like this before, those muscles aren’t fully developed yet.

As a result, it can be difficult for them to use those muscles at first.

Also, your child may feel “trapped” in this position, as they aren’t able to roll from tummy to back.

Even though your baby might not seem to like tummy time at first, it’s still an important part of helping to build that vital muscle strength.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to help your baby enjoy tummy time more.

Keep reading for some tips on how to make tummy time more enjoyable for your infant.

The Benefits Of Tummy Time For Your Baby | District Speech & Language Therapy | Washington D.C. & Arlington VA

Tummy Time Tips

If you’re worried that your child isn’t enjoying tummy time, try out these ideas.

Remember that as your child builds strength, they will likely begin to enjoy tummy time more.

Here are some steps you can take to improve their experience.

1. Take Intervals

To improve your baby’s tolerance for tummy time, try doing tummy time for only a few minutes a day.

Experiment with different activities so you can find out what your child prefers and what they like less, and to keep the experience interesting and fun for them.

Then you can gradually increase the amount of time you spend enjoying tummy time together.

2. Lie Baby On Your Lap

Your baby can have some tummy time right on your lap.

Place your baby face down across your lap to burp or soothe them.

Keeping your hand on your baby’s bottom will keep them steady and calm them down.

3. Lie Baby On Your Tummy

Lie yourself down on a soft surface, flat or propped up on pillows.

Place your baby on your chest or tummy, so that you are face-to-face.

Always hold your child firmly for safety.

This great alternative tummy time position engages your child’s visual system and gives you the chance to teach them new facial expressions.

This is a great way to connect with your baby while encouraging muscle development.

4. Encourage Eye Contact

Get down at eye level with your baby to encourage eye contact.

You can use your child’s toys as visual stimuli here.

Show them a toy and then once their gaze is locked, slowly move object side to side and up and down.

Your baby will follow the object with their eyes and head while staying in the tummy time position.

5. Try A Tummy Down Carry

Position one hand under your child’s tummy and between the legs and carry them tummy down.

Keep your baby close to your body.

Make sure you’re holding your child firmly for safety.

Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today

Would you like to know more about different activities to try with your child that strengthen their back, neck, and shoulder muscles?

Or do you have questions about tummy time?

If so, book an appointment with District Speech and Language Therapy today.

Our clinic was founded as a speech therapy clinic, but we also have trained pediatric physical therapists who can help.

Book your appointment with District Speech today.

District Speech and Language Therapy
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005

- https://g.page/districtspeech

District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.