Babies need "tummy time" in order to develop their shoulders, back, and neck muscles. It also is important to prevent an infant from developing a misshapen skull from laying too much on his or her back or side or suffering from constricted neck muscles.
When an infant has suffered from developmental delays due to premature birth, other medical problems, or environmental delays, it may take some extra work to convince a baby to learn to enjoy tummy time and develop those important early motor skills.
How Does Tummy Time Help Children Develop Normally?
When a baby begins to relax and explore the world during tummy time, there are a number of important milestones he or she can reach. First, tummy time encourages the baby to use his or her neck muscles to lift his or her head at will in order to explore. Second, babies will generally start to develop their arm and shoulder strength by gradually learning to push up on their arms and raise their bellies off the ground. This action also helps encourage the development of the baby's hand strength and motor skills.
How Can You Help Your Infant Enjoy Tummy Time?
Babies often dislike tummy time — at least, at first. They may feel bored, trapped, or generally frustrated by their inability to move or keep their heads raised. You can make tummy time more fun for your baby (and less stressful) by staying engaged with your baby during early sessions.
During those initial sessions you can:
- Gently roll your baby from back to belly and then in the reverse a few times to show your baby that it is possible to move that way.
- Talk to your infant as you help him or her roll in order to reassure him or her that everything about the situation is normal.
- Limit tummy time to a few minutes at a go, several times a day, until your baby is more capable of pushing on his or her arms and holding up his or her head.
- If your baby is really resistant to tummy time, try laying your baby on top of your own chest or stomach. The physical contact will usually calm your baby and even help you bond.
If your child is really having a hard time developing the motor skills necessary to raise up on his or her own and start to explore the world a little more freely, it may be time to ask your doctor about pediatric physical therapy in your area. A pediatric physical therapist can help parents and babies overcome significant limitations or delays and get back on track developmentally.
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