Tummy time is a tricky subject to navigate as a parent. It sounds like an important part of your little one’s progress and development – but most babies hate it with the heat of a thousand burning suns.
So, do babies really need it?
In the early 90s, the Back-to-Sleep initiative was launched in order to get babies sleeping on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). All those perfectly round-headed people of the 70s were now placing their babies on their backs to sleep (rightfully so) and were finding that their babes didn’t have much time to practice lifting up their heads to develop strong neck muscles. At the same time, a lot of babies’ heads were getting flat (called positional plagiocephaly).
Here’s what could happen if you don’t do it
According to some people, babies who don’t have time to practice lifting up their necks and heads aren’t building upper body strength, which can lead to a delay in motor skills. So your kid could be slower to roll over, crawl and reach other milestones. It depends on who you talk to – some will say tummy time for infants is crucial. Others will tell you to let your baby do things when they’re ready.
In May of 2013, a study came out suggesting that tummy time may not be as necessary as we all thought. And guilt-ridden parents everywhere cheered! The study compared babies born between 1990 and 1992 (before the back to sleep campaign began) with babies born 20 years later, and concluded that “The introduction of the supine sleep position to reduce the prevalence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has not altered the timing or sequence of infant rolling abilities.”
So basically, babies will get moving when they damn well please.
Overall, tummy time is clearly not a bad idea and it never hurts to give your baby the chance to do it. Like most things in parenting milestones are, for the most part, an average base line of what to expect. Every baby will develop at their own pace. But if you’re at all concerned, you should definitely talk to your doctor to ease your mind.
And if you want to make tummy time less painful – you could try these.
Get down on the ground with your baby and face them to help distract them a little. You can also try giving them a mirror or a toy to look at, tummy time pillows or mats, or a rolled up receiving blanket tucked under their chest. Tummy time can even be considered any time you have your baby laying chest to chest with you or when you’re wearing your wee nugget in a recommended carrier or wrap.
Basically, even if you don’t find yourself following a strict tummy time schedule, or your baby seems to hate it, it’s always a good idea to understand the logic behind it.