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Baby development

My Baby Hates Tummy Time, What Should I Do?

If tummy time is not your baby's favourite time of day, you're not alone.

My Baby Hates Tummy Time, What Should I Do?

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Even if you don't have kids, you've probably heard the phrase "tummy time," something all parents of newborns should be attempting with their infants as it is an important part of their development. However many newborns are notorious for hating the activity. If you've found yourself googling "my baby hates tummy time," here's what you can do about it, according to an expert.

What is tummy time and why is it important?

Says Casey R. Walker, OTR/L, occupational therapist and chief executive officer at Tiltons Therapy, tummy time is the time a baby spends on its belly. "It facilitates necessary neuromuscular development," she says. "Most daily activities center around our sensory interactions with the world around us. As humans, a considerable component of this is based on our visual system; therefore, it happens in front of our bodies," she explains. The result is forward-bending in nature.

"Tummy time is essential to build the muscles on the backside of the body to increase back, shoulder and neck strength," Walker explains, all of which are necessary to help build the skills needed for rolling, upright sitting, head control and more. "Eventually, this core stability is needed to walk. "

There's an added benefit to tummy time that goes beyond muscles: helping prevent a flat head. Says Walker, "Additionally, limiting time spent laying on their backs or sides can help to foster normal development of the skull by preventing too much pressure in one area that can result in a flat spot."

baby in tummy time crying iStock

My baby hates tummy time, what should I do

If you're starting tummy time, you might have already discovered that your baby is not a fan. It's common for babies to express their displeasure during tummy time. Walker says that, like most humans, it's because babies don't want to be uncomfortable.

"Growing these muscles is hard!" she says. "They're working hard to lift their heads, push themselves up with their arms and gain strength." She says they might also feel extra uncomfortable if they're full, so be cautious of when you're scheduling tummy time.

Try to make tummy time as engaging as possible, spending quality time with your baby. Walker says making it fun is essential, and you can start by putting your baby on their belly, comfortable with a soft blanket on the floor or on a tummy time mat. "Add their favorite tummy time toys or stuffed animals nearby," she says, positioning them within eyesight (remember, at newborn age, this is fairly close). Then, play with your baby by talking, singing, making funny faces, and moving the toys around.

What is an alternative to tummy time?

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If tummy time is stressing you and your newborn out, there are alternative tummy time positions to help you find a solution. Walker suggests starting with them on your lap or your tummy, which is also a great way to spend time with your baby and still build their upper body strength.

"As you lay back, you'll get their sensory systems accustomed to their body's change of position while feeling safe with your contact," she says. Remember, too, that any amount of tummy time is a good amount of tummy time.

Do babies eventually like tummy time?

If you're both struggling to enjoy tummy time, try not to stress too much—like with everything during a child's life, this is just a temporary phase. Walker says to keep in mind that all babies are different, and some might have more of an aversion to tummy time than others, especially if something else is at play, like being uncomfortable after eating.

"However, with frequent, fun, safe and encouraging exposures, most children will become accustomed to the position and gain the benefits of it," she says.

baby in tummy time smiling iStock

FAQs

How often should I be doing tummy time with my baby?

Walker says that tummy time is something to build upon as a baby grows. "You can start with three to four times a day at three to five minutes each session, expanding to five to six times a day with roughly 10 minutes per session," she says.

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What should I not do during tummy time?

Newborns need to be watched closely under adult supervision, and tummy time is no exception. Walker suggests paying careful attention to any blankets or toys around their mouths or noses that could potentially block airflow.

She also suggests being mindful of feeding times and any reflux issues your baby might have, as it can impact the experience. "Always keep pets and other children at arm's length from the baby to prevent falls and trips or accidental bumps and bruises," she adds.

What will happen if I never give my baby tummy time?

While it might not seem like a big deal to not offer tummy time, especially if your child hates it, it might impact their development. "Children without opportunities to exercise their posterior chain muscular system will struggle with rolling, crawling, sitting, self-feeding, dressing, and walking tasks due to weakness, poor core stability, and impaired balance and coordination," says Walker.

"Motor development is like building with LEGOs; it is vital to have a solid, sturdy, and strong foundation to build the next layer of skills. This starts at birth and continues for a lifetime."

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Experts:

  • Casey R. Walker, OTR/L, occupational therapist and chief executive officer at Tiltons Therapy

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