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  • Let Your Baby Spend Time On His Stomach! 4 Ways It Benefits His Growth And Development

    Make the activity enjoyable by allowing baby-led tummy time.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Let Your Baby Spend Time On His Stomach! 4 Ways It Benefits His Growth And Development
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  • Pediatricians advise that newborns and babies who are less than 6 months old must be on their backs when sleeping to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, it is equally important not to forget “tummy time,” according to experts.

    Spending time on their stomach allows your baby to become stronger and gets them ready to sit up and crawl. According to Dr. Anne Zachry, chairwoman of the department of occupational therapy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in the United States, you should “start tummy time as soon as you get home from the hospital.”

    The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends tummy time two to three times a day, but for only a short period between three to five minutes each.

    Why you shouldn’t force tummy time

    For Janet Lansbury, a respective parenting educator, author, and consultant, parents should trust their little ones and allow them to move freely. “Babies are born knowing something about their development and can be trusted to demonstrate readiness for developmental milestones by ‘doing them’,” she writes on her website.

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    Baby-led tummy time is natural and part of your little one’s exploration. It is also how she discovers more about her body and what it can do.

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    “The actual act of getting to their tummy from their back (something that takes months!) is what forms their spinal curves — the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical — and in turn gives them strength in their back muscles,” says Irene Lyon, MSC, a nervous system expert.

    As your baby grows and explores different movements and positions on her way to tummy time, you can also promote it without being forceful. Dr. Zachry suggests lying down on your back and putting your baby on your stomach or chest so you can look at each other “eye to eye.”

    Simone Davies, an Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)-certified teacher also suggests following baby’s lead and only placing them on their stomach when they are content to do so and stop when baby indicates that they have had enough.

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    “If D really disliked it after a few tries, we’d probably skip it until she could roll over, but for now she enjoys it and sometimes even cozily rests on her tummy,” the mom writes on her blog.

    She shares ways to make tummy time more enjoyable including placing baby on a “super soft surface,” using a pillow to elevate their head and hands, lying down next to them so they can see you, and placing a mirror or pictures in front of her or to the side. You can also try tummy time in different areas of the house to vary light and scenery.

    “Talk to her and encourage her,” Simone writes. Of course, you should always be with your baby to supervise at all times.

    Benefits of tummy time

    Tummy time sets off a positive chain of events for your baby’s growth and development. “You need to get down there and entertain, entertain, entertain,” Dr. Zachry said.

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    Here are the many ways your baby can benefit from spending time on their stomach.

    1. Tummy time builds strength.

    Tummy time strengthens your baby’s upper body muscles that don’t get used when your baby is lying down on his back. “In tummy time, they’re using their neck and trunk and shoulder muscles and also their hands,” Dr. Zachry said.

    “They start pushing themselves up to look around, working muscles that are foundational for fine motor skills, and getting a different perceptual experience,” she adds.

    2. It helps them get better sleep.

    Physical activity affects how well and how long babies rest and sleep. According to recent research, tummy time during the daytime may affect how long babies sleep at night.

    The study, published in Infant Behavior and Development, suggests that a baby who has exerted themselves physically is likely to sleep more than a baby who isn't as active. For little ones, that exercise routine may include tummy time. Make sure your little one is awake and alert and keep an eye on them the whole time they are on their belly.

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    3. It reduces flat head syndrome.

    Flat head syndrome happens when the baby develops a flat spot, usually on the back or side of the head, typically caused by a baby lying down in the same position for prolonged periods of time. Tummy time can help reduce the risk of flat spots, according to Mayo Clinic.

    4. It helps teach your baby how to walk.

    Tummy time sets the stage for developing motor skills. “The experience of being on their tummy helps babies learn to push up, roll over, sit up, crawl, and pull to a stand,” Dr. Danette Glassy, a pediatrician and chairperson of the AAP’s committee on early education and childcare, told BabyCenter.

    If you’ve decided on baby-led tummy time, make sure to observe whether your little one is comfortable doing it. Spending time on their bellies prepares your baby for developmental milestones, so keep encouraging and making the activity enjoyable for them.

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    Got a 3-month-old? Click here for activities that you can do with them!

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