4 Tummy Time Tips from a Pediatric Physical Therapist
One of the biggest reasons parents love the Newton Crib Mattress is because it’s 100% breathable. If their baby rolls over in the middle of the night, they can still breathe straight through the mattress! However, walking in on your baby flipped over is always scary at first — especially if they’re unable to roll from stomach to back again on their own. This is why tummy time is key.Tummy time builds many of the crucial muscles your baby needs to be able to roll over and eventually sit up on their own. We chatted with Kailee, a Pediatric Physical Therapist and tummy time expert to answer parents’ most-common questions.
When should you start tummy time?
The short answer: Day 1. Your new baby might protest because they’re used to being all curled up in your tummy and spend most of their newborn days asleep flat on their back, so this new position can be uncomfortable. To help ease into tummy time, place your baby belly down on your chest. This method is more comfortable than the floor and your closeness will soothe them. Make it easier by sitting more upright until their umbilical cord falls off — then begin consistent practice on a flat surface like the floor. Aim for about three to five minute tummy time sessions, two or three times a day of tummy time during each wake window, to their tolerance. Tummy time should be a no-cry zone; if they’re fussing because it’s hard, get down and encourage them, but if they’re truly upset, give them all the snuggles and gently roll them to their back. Making it a part of your daily routine from the start will help your little one grow to love it over time! One of my favorite things to do is roll them to their tummy after each diaper change — it not only reminds me to do it but also allows baby to expect that tummy time will always happen during this routine, making them tolerate it a whole lot more.
What supplies do I need for tummy time?
All you really need for tummy time is a blanket (we recommend the super soft Newton Swaddle Blanket), the floor, and YOU! Getting down on the floor with your baby is key with tummy time — they’ll love to see your face and hear your voice the most! Obviously, we can't just be on the floor with our babies all day, so some of our other favorite tools are a Boppy pillow, a mirror, a tummy time water mat, and high-contrast cards or books. If they’re struggling to lift their head, try elevated tummy time on the couch or changing table with a hand on their bottom for safety and support. They’ll love being able to see the world around them from a new point of view.
How do I do tummy time with a newborn?It can be hard to feel like you're being successful with tummy time early on (when all they do in their very small wake windows are eat and poop). They have very little capacity for what we imagine in our minds as true tummy time, but just being on their tummies is the important thing. Skin to skin time, placing your baby over your lap, or on the floor supervised while you hang out and watch TV are all easy ways to incorporate into your daily routine. The important thing is to make it simple but consistent. As long as they’re supervised, it’s completely safe to allow them to be on their tummies and continue to encourage them to stretch out their little bodies.
How can you motivate a baby to do tummy time or crawl?
Using your little one’s favorite rattle to engage them in tummy time, crawling, or walking may work well at first — until they get bored. When this happens, try to find other toys that have similar properties to their favorite toy, whether it has a similar sound, color, or shape. You should also consider doing a toy rotation; put some of their toys away for a period of time and rotate which ones are out each day or week. Make it easy for yourself by just throwing them in a bag and switching which bags are out. Babies really enjoy the novelty of a "new" toy coming out. My biggest hack for encouraging crawling is finding something that motivates them to move. Our daughter first crawled for a piece of cheese! Maybe it's their favorite food, a bottle, or their pacifier. Use things that are going to really excite them.
If you’re a new parent, tummy time can seem daunting at first, especially when your baby starts screaming as soon as they are placed on their belly. But it’s so important to help your little one meet developmental milestones. Once your baby starts being able to roll over on their own from back to stomach, we recommend moving them from their bassinet into a crib with a breathable Newton Crib Mattress (in case they end up flipping in the middle of the night). Any questions? You can find more information at The Movement Mama Blog.
If you’re still struggling with tummy time, check out Kailee’s Ultimate Guide to Tummy Time here. And if you’re concerned because they’re rolling to their belly at night (but can’t yet roll to their back), you can find a step-by-step guide to success with rolling here.
Kailee is a Pediatric Physical Therapist + Mama of 2 based in Kansas City. Her mission is to prevent developmental delay by empowering parents toward purposeful play. You can find her on Instagram @themovementmama