I have a good friend who is a physical therapist. One of the things she does is go to people's homes and work with children who have developmental delays. Some of these babies are delayed simply because they haven't had enough physical time to flex muscles. It isn't because of anything genetic or physically wrong with the child.
This friend and I go running together. Because I love to know things, I started asking her all sorts of questions about tummy time. I thought her pointers were excellent. They are things that make sense, but a lot of parents don't think about it on their own. It reminds me of the Babywise books. When you read it, you think, "Oh, that makes sense." But you may have never put it into a concrete thought on your own.
Here are some of her thoughts on tummy time and avoiding preventable developmental delays.
I asked her what age she recommends you start tummy time. She said from birth. Now, if you have a baby and have never done tummy time, please do not panic. I once saw a question from a mom who had a two week old and she was concerned because she hadn't started tummy time yet. I remember being very sure to have Brayden's tummy time each day from birth. If I missed a day, I worried.
I know it is natural to worry like crazy when you are a parent, but try to relax. If you haven't done it, just start. Better late than never.
You can think outside the box on this. Remember the why as to the reason you are doing tummy time. It isn't so your child will lay face down on the floor each day. It is to exercise muscles that are not exercised while lying on the back.
Some babies really, really hate tummy time for a variety of reasons. Brayden hated it I believe because he wanted to look at the world around him. Kaitlyn hated it because it aggravated her reflux. McKenna actually has had no problem with it because I am a few years older and a whole lot wiser than I was when Brayden was a baby.
Here are some suggestions from my friend to have successful tummy time. Do keep in mind that there is a line between giving your child the opportunity to practice skills she is able to do and forcing her to do things she isn't ready for. Forcing a child will cause harm. Follow her lead, but don't let her not liking it prevent you from helping her exercise her muscles.
- Hold baby upright: Hold baby upright from the beginning. Don't always hold baby up to your body, all snuggled in. Have baby in a position where she can practice holding her head up by herself. Again, do this when baby can physically do it.
- On chest in recliner: Sit in a recliner and recline back a bit. Put baby on your chest. Baby will hold her head up in order to look at you. This is a good exercise for the newborn. It is also good for the reflux baby. As baby gets older, you can recline further.
- Blanket or boppy: A lot of babies who hate tummy time on the floor will be okay with it propped up on a blanket or boppy pillow. This is another good way to do tummy time for a baby with reflux.
- On couch: For the baby who really just hates to be on her tummy because she wants to see you, you can put her on the couch. Then you sit on the floor in front of her and you are eye level with each other.
- On chest on floor: Also for the baby who wants to see the world, you can put baby on your chest as you lay on the floor.
- On floor with toys/mommy: This is my addition. I finally wised up when McKenna was a baby. I realized tummy time in and of itself is not a fun activity. For some reason, I thought it was. When she was a baby, I realized it must be boring. So I would get on the floor with my face close to hers. As a newborn, I would just look at her so I didn't overstimulate. As she got older, we interacted more with each other. I also will put a toy in front of her to look at and work toward.
- Where the action is: Something I recently read was to put baby on the floor where she can see you doing chores. If you lay her so she can look up and watch you as you do the dishes or put away laundry, it will give her something interesting to look at. It will also give her reason to turn her head and get more exercise.
- On your shins: This is also my addition. I like to put McKenna on my shins while I lay on the floor. She loves to look at my face. Then I sway my legs around and give her a ride. I asked my friend about that and she said it is great once baby has stable head control.
- Put things out of her reach: When you have your child on the floor, whether on her tummy or back, leave toys just out of her reach. Somewhere around 4-6 months, most babies will work to get a toy out of their reach. I always give my kids their toys, and when it falls out of their reach, I give it back to them. After talking to my friend, the next day I put McKenna's toy just out of her reach while she was laying on her back playing on the floor. She looked at it for a while, then she started to work on rolling over to try to get it. She worked and worked and finally rolled over! That was fast results.
- Cheer her on: As you see your baby working on a skill, cheer her on. Tell her to keep trying and show her how impressed you are at her efforts. When she is successful, cheer her one. All kids love to be cheered on...all people love to be cheered on! When I cheer for McKenna, she gets a very pleased smile and will do it over and over. She rolls back and forth and back and forth...all because she loves the cheering.
- Allow frustration: My friend told me this one and then said I probably already tell parents that all the time. Well, yes, but I also have a hard time letting my children get frustrated as they are playing. Remember me, the helicopter mom to Brayden? I hover? When he was a baby, I rushed to rescue him at the first peep. While I was better about that with Kaitlyn in most cases, not with tummy time because I knew it was painful for her (which I think was the right move--but I didn't think of alternative tummy time activities). With McKenna, I gave her time to work on it. My friend said you don't want them to get so upset that it is hard to console them when you do rescue them, but give them a few extra seconds to work on it. It will give their muscles a little extra work out.
- Move child for him if he can't: Once you go to rescue your baby, don't just rescue him. Help him move his body the way he needs to in order to get out of the position. Help him roll his body over. Help him sit up, sit down, walk a step...move his body for him so he understands how to do it.
- Avoid too much time in bouncers, jumpers, etc.: My friend says that most of the babies she sees who have developmental delays spend hours each day in bouncers, jumpers, swings, etc. I have really been careful with McKenna to not put her in things too often. She spends most of her playing time on the floor. She is just fine with that and has no complaints.
- Reap what you sow: Realize that you will reap what you sow. I was looking at pictures and realized that when Kaitlyn was McKenna's age, she was sitting on her own. McKenna isn't close to it. Why the difference? Besides the fact that they are different people, most of Kaitlyn's time was spend sitting upright since she had reflux. It really hurt her to lay down, so she didn't lay on the floor to play at all. I would hold her sitting up to play. She was advanced for her age because of that. McKenna is more advanced at floor stuff because of her time doing that.
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