Tummy time twist

Tummy time has many benefits; this version is using a bolster.

So many mamas tell me their babies hate tummy time, especially in the first couple weeks and months. By the time babies are a few months old however, they are usually much more interested in their tummies, as their head control increases and they have more mobility with their arms to reach and acquire things they want.

Tummy time is still important though, even if you baby doesn't like it much at first. We know that the plates of the skull are still mold-able for up to 18 months, however many babies have significant flat spots by the time they are ready for more tummy time (4-6 mo is when I typically see a burst of this developmentally).
All this back to sleep business, although a potentially life saving measure to avoid SIDS, is creating some serious shaping concerns in the scalp. Firm sleep surfaces, overuse of car seats (as transporting devices, not in cars), and all the firm surfaces that baby's encounter with their heads (vibrating seats, swings, etc) are certainly playing a part. Preemies and multiples are particularly at risk for significant flat spots as well.
Any time you have babies in your arms it is reducing the risk of flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly), and of course being worn in a soft sided carrier (sling, pouch, pack, etc) is also helpful, as the dynamic nature of our bodies keeps the plates moving and adapting continuously. Numerous positions of being held are helpful to avoid flat head syndrome, so vary it up! Don't be afraid to try out some new ways of supporting baby, and they will surprise you with what they like too!
But the biggest reason I like to offer tummy time? You are going to like this one...it helps them sleep.
I kid you not, I have been experimenting with tummy time for the past few months with allowing babies some time to work through tummy time after their feeds. I like to try it then as it usually is their happiest time, and they are willing to try something new and challenging most when they are well fed and reasonably well rested. So I choose a few minutes after a feed (5-15) after they have had a chance to burp and a diaper change if needed.
They kick and wiggle, do their baby Pilates and downward yoga dogs, and proceed to wear themselves out! (Yesterday a baby 'scooted' almost off the blanket with just a little hand pressure under his feet! He thought that was pretty cool!)
I don't know if it is the exercise, the sensory input, or the struggle itself (as they do strain and strive to change their position pretty strongly), but whatever it is, they fall asleep sooner and sleep better. Not kidding--I wouldn't kid you about baby napping; I know what a serious topic this is.
And we all know that better rested babies sleep better at night, right? (See the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child for more info on this concept.)
So here are some hints for getting babies to do a bit more tummy time:
  • Feed, burp, and allow your baby to have a change before trying them on their tummy.
  • If you baby has reflux, keep them upright 20 min before giving it a try.
  • Try taking off the baby's pants and diaper, laying them on a clean diaper or towel. They WILL PEE. Trust me. (This is the best trick I have seen yet. Not sure why nudity helps, but it really does!)
  • Use a bolster (like the one shown) to keep their bodies more lifted. It will help keep their face off the floor and allow them more mobility and view.
  • Try an unbreakable mirror under their line of sight so they can see their curious little face.
  • Place art cards or black and white images near them to focus on.
  • Get down on the floor and put your face close to theirs, encouraging them.

Ok, now off you go to try this! Better naps await!