The Importance of Tummy Time for Your Baby’s Development
From the moment your baby was born, you probably started learning about the importance of placing her on her back to sleep in order to reduce the chance of SIDS. But while your baby is awake, she should spend plenty of supervised time on her tummy to strengthen neck muscles vital for meeting developmental milestones. Here’s why tummy time is so important, and how a pediatric chiropractor can help your baby meet those milestones.
Why does my baby need tummy time?
The suboccipital muscles in the back of the neck are the first muscles to develop in newborns. Placing your newborn on her tummy encourages her to lift up her head and look at her surroundings, which strengthens those suboccipital muscles. A strong neck will allow baby to hold her head up and to eventually roll over, sit up, and crawl. Tummy time is also important for developing balance, coordination, and visual tracking.
How often should I lay my baby on her tummy, and how will I know if it’s enough?
Starting on the day your baby comes home, you should lay her on her tummy up to 5 times a day when she’s awake, but never immediately after feeding since this could upset her stomach. Aim for 30 seconds each time, working up to 3-5 minutes per day on a firm flat surface.. You can lay your baby across your lap, on the floor, or on your chest since babies love skin to skin contact for extra time throughout the day. As time progresses, try to increase the minutes she spends on her tummy each week.
To gauge whether or not your baby is getting enough tummy time, look for the following signs that her neck is getting stronger:
- At two months, she should be able to tolerate being on her tummy for a total of 15 minutes per day (in three 5-minute increments). She should be able to lay on either cheek comfortably.
- At three months, she should be spending 30-45 minutes (10-15 mins, 2-3 times a day) on her tummy. She will probably turn her head from one side to the other in response to sounds.
- At four months, she should tolerate an hour or two of tummy time throughout the day, and will probably be able to lift her head and chest up to look straight ahead. Some babies will roll from tummy to back at this age.
- At six months, she will enjoy being placed on her tummy, and may be able to use her arms to push up her torso. She may even start to rock, scoot, or crawl.
What should I do if my baby isn’t meeting milestones or doesn’t like tummy time?
It’s normal for babies to cry as they get frustrated with tummy time, but if your baby seems to be extremely uncomfortable when lying on her tummy, there could be a bigger issue. A subluxation, or a misalignment in the spine, can cause pain when raising or turning the head.
Sometimes a subluxation can happen during the birth process and isn’t detected until the baby tries to use those neck muscles. As a pediatric chiropractor, Dr. Colleen Miller is trained to recognize symptoms of a misalignment and can perform a safe, gentle adjustment to align it which allows for your baby’s development to get back on track. If you have questions about your baby’s tummy time or are concerned about her symptoms, call Dr. Miller at Turning Point Wellness Center in Waterloo IL, at 618-939-5585 to make an appointment.