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3 Easy Alternatives for Tummy Time

Every parent knows how important tummy time is for their baby. Most parents also know how difficult it is to get the necessary infant on tummyamount of tummy time into each day. This is only made more difficult when babies dislike tummy time and cry whenever placed on their belly. Here are some simple alternatives to laying your baby flat on their stomach as well as provide the benefits of tummy time and keeping baby and parent happy.

3 Alternatives for Tummy Time:

  1. Front Carry: Hold baby facing away from you, supporting him/her around their rib-cage  With their bottom tucked into your belly, tilt their trunk forward so that it is parallel with the ground. This will encourage the baby to look forward, strengthening the muscles in the back of the neck and along the spine. The more horizontal the baby is, the more difficult it will be for them to lift and hold their head. Lift the baby’s trunk up every 30-60 seconds to give them a break.
  2. Baby on Shins: Lay on your back with your legs bent so that your shins are parallel to the ground. Lay the baby on your shins with their head hanging off your knees and holding onto their hands. This is a great alternative as you can look at the baby as well as move your legs to entertain the baby (similar to airplanes). This is also a good core exercise for mommy!
  3. Baby on Lap: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you (support your back on the wall if necessary) and lay your baby across your legs with their head hanging off one side of your thigh. This is an effective exercise because you can easily move a toy with one hand to encourage them to look around and strengthen the baby’s neck muscles.

Tummy time is vital for a baby to grow and learn new gross motor milestones. The goal is to have the baby be on their bellies 50% of their awake time. If a baby does not spend enough time on their stomachs, future gross motor skills, such as crawling, may be delayed. There may be specific reasons, such as weakness, low muscle tone or torticollis, that can cause your child discomfort during tummy time. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your baby’s tummy time, please click here to request a meeting with a physical therapist or speak with your pediatrician.

Tummy Time Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is tummy time?

Tummy time is either:

  • Supervised time when your child is laying on a firm flat surface on her tummy.
  • When your child is being in a position where she is face down and has to lift her head up against gravity.

Why does my child need tummy time? Why is it so important?tummy time

  • Studies have shown a link between slowed achievement of developmental milestones and diminished tummy time in babies.
  • Tummy time builds the muscles in your child that are necessary for advanced movements like crawling, walking and (gulp) running.

My child always cries during tummy time, what should I do?

  • Lay on the floor with your child. Babies are often frustrated because they have less ability to interact with the world when they are lying on their tummies, and if they can see your face (and your smile), they may calm down. You may also utilize mirrors or toys to distract them when they get frustrated.
  • Try a “tummy time alternative.” This can be carrying your child face down in a “superman” position or sit with them supporting her trunk and tilt her forward so her shoulders are in front of her hips.
  • As your child gets stronger (and more able to lift her head and play with toys in this position) she will enjoy tummy time more and more.

What can happen if I don’t give my child tummy time?

  • If the child is always on their back, it increases the risk of flattening portions of their head, and if they do not move their heads around in all directions, it increases their risk of developing torticollis.
  • There may be slowed attainment of developmental milestones such as independent sitting, crawling, and walking.

How much tummy time should my child be getting?

  • The goal is that by 6 months of age, your child should be on their tummy 50% of her play time (not including feeding time, bath time, or sleeping time). Remember that this is a goal to work towards and not to be expected the first day you introduce tummy time.

 How old should my child be before I begin tummy time?

  • You may introduce tummy time on day 1, as long as there are no medical complications whereby your pediatrician would recommend avoiding tummy time.

***Most importantly, babies should always be placed to sleep on their back, and supervised when on their tummy***

Click here to watch a 2 minute webisode on the Importance of Tummy TIme

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Positioning for Infants 101

Recent statistics show that 1 in 10 babies have plagiocephaly, or flatness to one side of their head. Since 1992 when the American Academy of baby on tummyPediatrics launched the “back to sleep” campaign, cases of SIDS have dramatically decreased. However, cases of plagiocephaly, or flat head, have increased. With babies spending so much of their day on their backs, in swings, car seats and bouncy chairs, babies aren’t given the proper tummy time to let their head naturally round out.

Positioning your infant to switch the direction that they are laying is recommended to prevent flatness to one side of their head. Simple positioning things that parents of little ones can do at home are:

Ways To position Your Infant:

  • Providing ample tummy time daily: start with just a few minutes and work your way up from there. By 5-6 months, aim for ½ of play time to be on the tummy.
  • Alternate the hip or arm where you carry your baby. This way, they have equal opportunity to look both ways and keep their neck muscles flexible.
  • Alternate the end of the crib each night where you place your baby to sleep. This way, if they are always looking at one part of the room, ie a nightlight, window or door, they will have a different part of their head that they are sleeping on each night.
  • Alternate the end of the changing table where you change your baby.
  • Limit use of carseats, swings, bouncy seats or any device where a child is “contained.” Excessive time in these “containers” can cause a flat head on one side and limit gross motor development.
  • When your child is in a car seat, a cushioned head support will help keep some pressure off the back of their head.

It is normal for your babies’ head shape to not be completely round following a vaginal delivery; however, head shapes usually round out from the pressures of delivery within the first 6 weeks of life. It is important to use the positioning techniques above to ensure that your baby has a nice round head shape as they continue to develop.

If you are concerned about your babies’ head shape, talk to a physical therapist or your pediatrician. Physical therapy can help round out your child’s skull and help with gross motor development.

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Slings, Swings and Jumpers and Your Infant’s Development

In regard to the use of these devices I am of two minds, one as a clinician and one as a parent.  Let me present the evidence and then make my recommendations.

Slings:

  • The primary concern about them decreasing the oxygen that your child can breath or suffocating the infant have not been proven through the research. baby in carrier Babies do have a decrease in the oxygen in their blood when being carried in a sling, but the same phenomenon occurs when placing a baby on their backs in a stroller.  This occurrence primarily affects pre-term babies.
  • The other concern about them putting too much strain on your joints and back may be avoided by following the instructions, and ensuring there is support around your hips.

Swings and car carriers:

  • These devices, by design, decrease the child’s ability to move which can keep them safe and in one place, but overuse of these devices have been shown to slow motor development.
  • Due to the position of the baby and the weight placed on the back of their head, prolonged use may lead to brachycephaly, a flattening of the back of the babies head.

Jumpers:

  • Allow the baby to stand more easily by rotating their hips back and forcing a slouched posture which enables them to stand up before they have the core control to stand erect.  This rotation of the hips also changes the mechanics of their leg and hip joints.

With this information in front of me, as a clinician I can advocate the use of slings with very young babies who need that skin-to-skin contact, and with decreasing frequency of use as they get older.  I do not advocate the use of swings, jumpers and (outside of the car) car carriers as places to put babies.  Click here to read about the container baby “lifestyle”.

As a parent, I recognize the need for a safe place for your child while you do a sink load of dishes, or when trying to get a quick shower.  I can tell you that, at times, I have foraged like a ravenous squirrel for a place to safely put my daughter when making dinner, or a load of laundry that I trust she will be safe, and will prevent any screaming or crying (sometimes from her).  In these moments I see the need for a swing, or bouncy seat where she will be safe and contained.  I have used and loved slings and other carriers to keep her near me, and in emergencies, to assist her into that elusive state, sleep.

Overall, the BEST places for your child are: in your arms, or placed on their back or tummy on a safe flat surface.  Babies should be getting as much time on their tummy as they, and you, tolerate on a firm, safe surface.  Lack of time on their tummy has been consistently linked to slowed acquisition of gross motor milestones.

When you need a hands-free alternative, slings can be a great tool.  Regarding any other piece of equipment to put your child, my rule of thumb is: use as sparingly as possible, and the more concerns there are about your child’s development, hypotonia, torticollis, etc., the less you should utilize these pieces of equipment.

*Important safety note: Babies must always be placed to bed on their backs, and always use car carriers when in the car no matter how far.

The Importance Of Tummy Time For Your Baby | Pediatric Therapy TV

Today we interviewed a Pediatric Physical Therapist on why Tummy Time is so important for the growth and development of babies.

Click Here to read more about Tummy Time

In This Video You Will Learn:

  • The importance of Tummy Time early on
  • The risks of not doing Tummy Time
  • Milestones Tummy Time helps babies reach

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I am Robyn Ackerman, your host. Today I am standing with Bridget Zarling, a pediatric physical therapist. Bridget, can you tell us why tummy time is so important?

Bridgett: Absolutely, Robyn. Starting very early on in a baby’s life, they need to be on their tummy during playtime. What this does is establish strength within the baby’s neck, chest muscles, and arm muscles. If they are not on their tummy time they can have risk for plagiocephaly, which is flattening of the back of their head. Tummy time is also important for developing gross motor milestones in a baby’s life. They learn to crawl, roll, and even sit, the longer that they are on their tummy during playtime.

Robyn: Great. Thank you, Bridget, and thank you to our viewers. And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at LearnMore.me. That’s LearnMore.me.