TUMMY TIME…such a sassy name. Whoever came up with it must have been a genius. When the baby is born, we are advised to make sure that they sleep in a safe position which is “Back Sleeping” AKA “Facing the Ceiling”. Back sleeping is said to prevent sudden infant death syndrome and I would encourage any mom to ensure their babies sleep in this position. This position though can be “paralyzing ” though. I used this term because I lack a better term to explain the negative implication of your baby spending too much time lying on their back. In short, they become inactive, laggish and delay in milestone because that position does not help them exercise their core muscles they need for the next stage of development. Let’s get a little deeper!
What is Tummy Time?
Its simply allowing your baby to lay by their stomach. Yes! In Swahili we call it kifundifundi. Note that I used the term lay and not sleeping because tummy time should be done when the baby is awake. You can start tummy time any time from 2 weeks after birth. By the time the baby is two weeks, the umbilical cord will have healed. If the healing takes longer, its’ advisable to wait longer before you start tummy time.
WHY TUMMY TIME!
- Remove excess gas from her tummy– Lying by the belly squeezes excess gas from the baby’s stomach. Don’t be surprised when you she farts almost immediately. Excess gas can trigger colic and hence this position helps in managing colic in your baby.
- Strengthen the neck muscle– Neck muscles are key in ensuring that the baby is able to sit down sooner than you expect. On placing the baby in this position, the first thing they try to do is to lift their little head to ensure that their little noses can get some oxygen to breathe in. Their instinct cannot allow them to suffocate on the surface. It’s hard at the beginning and it gets better with time indicating that the neck muscles are getting stronger. The first time is hard but they get better with time. Start with few seconds and increase time as they become stronger.
- Strengthen the arm muscle– After sitting down, the next stage is definitely crawling. Before they get into their four limbs, the same little hands will start picking items and putting in their mouth. Therefore, those tiny hands and arms need to be strengthened and exercised and there is no better way to achieve this than tummy time. As they try to lift their neck, the arms and the hands act as the support system for their whole body. Don’t worry if they are not able to lift themselves at the beginning. The more you do it, the stronger the arms get. These pivoting skills is best learnt through tummy time
- Strengthen their ABS– Yes…abs.! You though abs was meant for adults only. Your baby need to strengthen her core body to help her in rolling over. In the process of lifting the neck and putting the arms in position, the back and the stomach muscles are strengthened in the process.
- Strengthen the leg muscle– On placing the baby on this position, you will notice that she will try to shake her legs in the process of getting comfortable. As they get stronger and more comfortable, you can try and play with her legs by pushing them a little to their bum and placing them back to the surface. The stronger the legs, the sooner they stand on their feet!
- Reduce instances of flat head- Remember the safest sleeping position is by their back. If you keep a baby in this position for long, the head flattens at the back hence distorting the original shape. Though tummy time may not take long, it give a break to the head.
- Enhance bonding – Have some tummy time too and bring your face close to the baby. This increases eye contact and the baby loves to stare at you lovely face. You can sing, coo, talk to have the baby’s attention and encourage her to stay longer. Importantly, supervise the baby to ensure that they are comfortable.
- Enhances the baby’s ability to reach and play-Bring some plastic toys with you and place them in a circle in front of her face for attention. The toys will encourage the baby to lift the head and use the reach out the toys and eventually start picking them enhancing their picking skills. This also enhances eye and hand coordination. Ensure that the toys are colourful and clean as they may end up in the mouth.
I cannot over emphasize the benefit of tummy time. This should be a daily routine. Begin with 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes session and progress as long as the baby is comfortable. Pay attention to signs that your baby is getting tired, such as crying or resting his face on the surface, and be sure to end Tummy Time before your baby becomes fatigued. Avoid doing tummy time immediately after feeding. Take advantage of normal times such as towel drying after bath time, changing diapers, or applying lotion and have tummy time. Good luck as you do enhance tummy time!
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