Infant Tummy Time Mats - Strategies for Success
Many babies don't like tummy time but it seems even more common among babies with colic and reflux because they can have fewer coping skills.
Importance of Tummy Time
Since the back to sleep campaign was started in the nineties there has been a large jump in the number of babies with positional plagiocephaly (flattened head syndrome) and torticollis (twisting or arching of the neck) because babies now spend a majority of their time sleeping on their backs or in infant carseat carriers, bouncy seats and swings which put pressure on the same spot on the head.
To relieve pressure on the skull and encourage your baby gets full range of motion in the neck and shoulder muscles necessary to meet developmental milestones like self-feeding and crawling, physicians now recommend dedicated tummy time each day.
What is tummy time?
Tummy time can mean any combination of positions for your baby - not necessarily just on his tummy. Any position that is NOT on his back and encourages your baby to utilize his neck and shoulder muscles is considered tummy time. This includes time spent in your arms, on your lap, and in baby carriers that encourage him to turn his head freely to both sides and reach arms forward across the body.
How much Tummy Time Daily?
Beginning around two months of age or when your baby can hold up his head and exercise good neck control, physicians typically recommend 15-20 minutes once or twice a day of time spent on the tummy.
Keep in mind these time frames are designed for babies who spend a majority of their time sleeping or reclining on their backs. If you carry, wear your baby or have him on your chest a majority of his waking hours you may not need as much tummy time because your baby is already developing his core and neck muscles by looking around and holding his head up when in your arms or carrier.
Tummy Time Techniques
Place a blanket on the floor with your baby on his tummy. If your baby doesn't like to be directly on his tummy you can place a rolled up towel directly under his chest to help him lift up his head. Many babies with reflux don't like to be directly on their tummies because it puts added pressure on them but if you place something under the chest this can help elongate the neck which can close the spincter and keep acid from coming up into the throat.
Get down on the floor and alternate being next to and in front of your baby, encouraging him to turn his head to both sides and look straight forward. Place colorful and interesting objects on both sides and in front of him and encourage him to reach for and look at them. Tummy time should always be supervised.
Infant Tummy Time Mats
Infant tummy time mats and tummy wedges can mean the difference between tummy time success and tummy time frustration in the same way that a rolled up towel under your baby's chest helps. Infant tummy time mats have small pillows placed exactly where your baby needs support and take the place of a blanket on the floor. They are brightly colored and typically have attached toys that remain within baby's reach. A tummy time wedge provides an inclined tummy position perfect for babies with reflux. When using a tummy time wedge be sure and take turns sitting on either side of the wedge and at the front so baby turns his head equally to both sides and lifts it up to look directly ahead.
Proper Positioning in the Carseat Can Help Prevent Torticollis Just Like Tummy Time Does
Infant carseat carriers are often so big for tiny babies that the baby leans to a favored side, which can aggravate or encourage torticollis. Use a carseat positioner to prevent slumping in the car seat.
My Baby Hates Tummy Time
It's rare that a small baby initially enjoys tummy time for the recommended 10 or 15 minutes. Imagine not being able to hold your head up and continuously ending up face down in a blanket - it must be frustrating! But your baby does need to develop his neck and shoulder muscles so try working up to 10 to 15 minutes by first beginning with 1-2 minutes and practicing more frequently throughout the day. After several months your baby will be able to remain on his tummy longer stretches and most actually come to enjoy it.
Alternatives to Tummy Time
Your baby should spend as much of his waking time as possible not in a carseat or on his back, in addition to dedicated tummy time. Odds are if you have a reflux, colic or fussy baby you are already doing this and what you are doing does count towards tummy time. Most fussy babies demand to be carried and held all the time. To help your baby properly develop his neck and shoulder muscles, don't always carry him on the same side or same shoulder which encourages him to look around in all directions equally. If your baby likes to be face in when in a front pack or baby carrier be sure his head is not always turned to the same side to develop muscles on both sides of the neck equally. In a front pack be sure there is scenery on both sides of you to encourage him to turn his head all around. You can also alternate which end of the crib his feet face every other night to prevent him from looking at the same old scenery.
Infant Tummy Time Mats and Other Tools to Make Tummy Time Fun
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