Tummy time is one of the best activities for babies. Not only does it foster quality time between the baby and the parent, but it also helps confer multiple other benefits. Unfortunately, there are certain cases wherein a baby might not be particularly fond of tummy time. Thus, alternatives are needed.
While tummy time is significantly important for a baby, there are alternatives for those who seem to protest against it. One way is to lay the baby on you – either on your chest or on your lap. Another would be to lay your baby on their side.
If other methods fail, it is recommended to have shorter and more tolerable sessions of tummy time. A great tip is by having the baby facing down for quick moments of waiting (e.g., to get dressed, to get diapers changed, etc.). These methods are wonderfully easy and are just as effective.
This article will discuss the importance of tummy time and various alternatives to tummy time that the baby will be sure to love.
What is Tummy Time
Tummy time is essentially an activity where a baby is laid onto their tummy. While a seemingly simple activity, tummy time is lauded for the benefits it can confer to the baby despite being an effortless activity.
Firstly, babies are born with their craniums fragmented. The fragmentation allows malleability to the baby’s head, making it easier for the baby to pass through the mother’s birth canal. As they age, the fragments will eventually fuse into one solid cranium.
Unfortunately, the malleability conferred by the fragmentation can lead to certain downsides. For one, this means that a baby’s skull does not provide as much protection as an adult’s skull would. Secondly, the malleability can lead to cranial deformations.
A condition called plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome, is when a baby develops an asymmetrical head. This asymmetry is often due to prolonged positions of inactivity or preference in sleeping positions. Thus, tummy time offers a break from the baby lying on their back, thereby preventing flat spots.
Another excellent benefit that tummy time provides is exercise. With the baby sleeping and resting for most of the day, they would need activities that would help them develop their muscles. Fortunately, putting babies on their tummies engages multiple muscle groups such as the neck and shoulders.
With them on their tummies, babies would then be given access to move about. Aside from developing their motor skills, this also gives them an opportunity to learn more about their bodies. Moving around will teach them the kinesthetics of their body and help them learn to control their movements.
Some researchers would even suggest tummy time to have an impact on cognitive development as well. As babies begin to explore the world around them, they can begin to train their minds earlier to recognize patterns and obstacles.
Tummy time is such a highly recommended activity that the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends tummy time for babies as soon as they get home from the hospital.
Alternatives to Tummy Time
Unfortunately, there are certain reasons why parents might benefit from alternatives to tummy time instead. Used to being on their backs, some babies do not like being on their tummies. Tummy time can also be difficult for some who have yet to develop enough muscles to support themselves during the activity.
Fortunately, here are great alternatives to tummy time that should be amenable to your baby while still being able to confer similar benefits as tummy time.
1. Tummy Time on Your Chest
For some babies, tummy time can be uncomfortable because of the simple fact that they are more used to being on their backs than they are on their bellies. A great alternative to tummy time would be to simply have tummy time with the baby on your chest.
Instead of having the baby do tummy time on the bed or on the floor, you can simply lie on your back and have the baby do tummy time on your chest. Something supportive such as a pillow is recommended to be placed underneath your upper back.
Playing and spending time with the baby is always recommended to develop the bond between parent and child. However, having the baby on your chest will be more effective as the baby will be getting the benefits of tummy time while getting the benefits of such close contact with you at the same time.
You can even take off your top and have this moment with skin-to-skin contact. This type of contact is said to also confer numerous benefits. For one, it helps promote breastfeeding. Additional benefits of skin-to-skin contact include the transfer of good bacteria and help in regulating physiological processes (e.g., temperature, breathing, heart rate, and so on).
2. Tummy Time on Your Lap
Instead of tummy time on your chest, another great alternative to tummy time would be to lay the baby on your lap.
It can be inconvenient to have to lie down every time you want your baby to have tummy time. Hence, placing the baby on your lap is a quick and easy alternative. All you would need to do is find somewhere comfortable to sit and get your baby on your lap.
Aside from the convenience of being able to do tummy time on your lap quicker, another advantage to this method is by having the baby set on an uneven surface. Surely, your lap is a safe surface for your baby to be on, especially with your guidance. However, its unevenness can pose a challenge that can help stimulate your baby’s motor skills and body awareness.
Alternatives such as tummy time on your chest and on your lap are amazing because of the proximity between the parent and the child. The closeness of the two can make this feel more like a bonding exercise than a physical one.
3. Side Laying
Another great alternative to tummy time would be to simply lay your baby on their side. There are a number of reasons why side laying can still be just as effective as tummy time.
Firstly, it achieves a major point of tummy time which is to change the baby’s position. Aside from tummy time, changing the lying position of the baby every now and then helps prevent flat spots from developing on the baby’s head.
Secondly, even this lying position should be able to engage certain muscle groups that lying on their backs do not. Side laying should still be able to develop at least one side of the neck and shoulder muscles.
As a way to compensate for the effort of one side of the body, it is important to switch the baby from lying on one particular side to another. Leaving the baby to lie on one side more than the other can possibly lead to asymmetry as well.
If your baby finds side laying to be difficult, you can help them keep their balance by supporting them with something soft, such as a rolled-up towel, and placing it behind them and in front of them. It can also help to stay within their sight and engage with them to maintain their position.
4. Quick Tummy Times
If your baby is not particularly enjoying tummy time, there could be various reasons. Some babies do not want to be on their tummies as they have become accustomed to being on their backs. However, some babies are fine with being on their tummies – they just do not like doing it for long as an activity.
One way to easily incorporate tummy time into your baby’s life is by having quick tummy times. Instead of making it an activity in and of itself, you can simply put your baby on their tummy when you need to put them down for a short period of time.
For example, you can put your baby on their tummy when you are getting their clothes ready after a bath. This does not take too long, but it still gets your baby to have tummy time.
Another example would be to have your baby facing down when you are getting things ready for a diaper change.
While these quick tummy times may seem too fast, doing it enough during the day can eventually add up to something meaningful. Just remember to be aware of how long tummy times should be. While a newborn may just have a couple of 2-3-minute sessions, a 3-month-old should be doing a total of an hour per day.
Additionally, giving them small doses of tummy time can also possibly help them get more used to it, and eventually, help them be able to do it for longer periods of time.